Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.
Reflection: Balaams and Balaks
By John Tillman
Last week we celebrated the bravery of the prophet, Nathan, who confronted King David with his sins and described the terrible consequences that would be the result of the king’s actions.
This week’s readings begin with a very different prophet—one who could not be further from the ethical stance of Nathan—Balaam. Balaam is not concerned with whether what the king wants is right or moral. He does not care about reconciling men or nations to God as Nathan does. Balaam’s prophecies are for sale. But rather than allow Balaam to put words in his mouth, God puts his words in Balaam’s mouth.
God takes extreme measures. He causes Balaam’s donkey to speak to him to get his attention. Then, once Balaam sees the threatening, angel, God sternly warns Balaam to only say what God tells him to say. Although God speaks through Balaam, there is no relationship of love or trust—no expectation of good faith.
In the end, Balaam says what God commands. This could be because he is overwhelmed by the visions or because he is simply obeying out of fear of the angel who threatened him. Scripture does not tell us.
Perhaps the best lesson we can learn from Balaam is that there will always be prophets willing to buddy up to powerful, political leaders. These modern Balaams do their best to put words in God’s mouth that are pleasing to the powerful.
There are many political leaders today who are just like Balak. They want prophets of God to come to them, stand with them, worship with them, and bless their evil practices and desires. And there are many Balaams in the world today who claim to speak for God and yet seem willing to tickle the ears of the powerful in exchange for assurances of influence and power.
As God’s people, we can’t do much about the Balaams or the Balaks of the world. We must leave them up to God, for he is more than able to deal with them according to their sins.
Instead, we must simply keep serving our God and following him through our desert of sojourn. When the Balaams look down on us, may they be unable to deny the beauty of the love of God that is among us.
Prayer: The Call To Prayer
Let my mouth be full of your praise and your glory all the day long. — Psalm 71.8
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.
Numbers 22 (Listen – 5:55)
Psalm 62-63 (Listen – 2:44)
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