Balaam & Balak – Numbers 22-25:3; Jude 1:11; Rev. 2:14
What a strange story! As if it weren’t weird enough that donkeys are talking and angels are swinging swords, we have the absolutely confusing and apparently contradictory words of God in 22:20-22. (First, God tells Balaam to go, and then, two verses later, He is angry that Balaam goes!) The keys to this story are in Jude 1:11 and Rev. 2:14, so don’t forget to read those, too! On the surface, this looks like a story about some poor “prophet of God,” who gets stuck in the middle of an international conflict, but don’t be fooled. Yes, Balaam is posing as a prophet of God. He apparently is a man with powerful abilities – powerful enough that Balak, the king of Moab, calls on him to rain down curses on the Israelites. Also, Balaam can listen to and speak with God; that sounds like pretty convincing proof that he is a servant of God.
But, remember, we serve a God who doesn’t just see the outer appearance; He sees our hearts, and from the verse in Jude, we learn that Balaam is someone who is in love, not with God, but with money. So, when King Balak offers him riches to curse the Israelites, Balaam is very interested in what he has to say. God’s instructions to Balaam in 22:20 are “to go and do only what I tell you.” Balaam goes, and he says all the right things (mostly because that’s all the Holy Spirit lets him say – see 24:2-9), but all along his heart is trying to figure out how he can get the money. We know this from Rev. 2:14; God never allows Balaam to curse the Israelites with his mouth, but at some point, Balaam apparently teaches Balak how to entice the Israelites to sin, and the first few verses of Numbers 25 let us know, sadly, that Balak was successful.
So, now you know why God was so angry with Balaam. Although he looked like he was doing what God told him to do, in his heart he was plotting to subvert God’s plans and to do evil to God’s people. God could see his heart, and Balaam deserved judgment. In fact, if not for his donkey, that’s what Balaam would have gotten. What about us? What does God see when He looks at our hearts? Broken and contrite hearts (Ps. 51:17) and hearts inclined to obedience (I Sam. 15:22) are what pleases God.
In this story, we see yet another picture of grace – this time to a pagan prophet, posing as a man of God. Why didn’t God just strike him dead? God was giving Balaam chance after chance to see that ONLY God is the one true God. No matter how much power Balaam had, it wasn’t more powerful than God. God was giving Balaam a front row seat to see His power, and if Balaam had repented, God would have saved him. But apparently, Balaam never did repent. Instead, he chose to chase money instead of God Himself, so his claim to fame in the New Testament is that he is one of the men of woe, mentioned in Jude 1:11.
REVIEW THE STORY
Activity – Charades
- • Write on pieces of paper all the ways God speaks to people. (Several were mentioned in the Bible story today). talking directly to people, through angels, through donkeys, through dreams, through the Bible, through prayer, through songs, through people, through nature, etc.
- • For young ones, you might want to act out the words. Older kids can try acting out the phrases themselves.
- • See how many of these God-communication-methods kids can guess.
- • Discuss: how does God speak to people today?
Activity – Decorate Hearts
- • Let kids decorate hearts.
- • As they draw, remind them that God sees their hearts.
- • Discuss: how does that make you feel to know that God sees your heart?
- • What do you think God sees when He sees your heart?
- • When God saw Balaam’s heart, He saw some problems – what were some of those problems?
- • Balaam never repented; he was never sorry for the thoughts of his heart; he never wanted to change. What are some descriptions we might have read if Balaam had repented?
- • Have you ever repented? God wants everyone to repent.
QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT
- • What did this story teach you about God?
- • He sees everything – even what is inside our hearts!
- • God wants everyone to repent from their sins, so He gives us chances to do that!
- • He stands ready to forgive people who repent.
- • God is more powerful than any other power.
- • What did this story teach you about people?
- • People deserve death because they are sinful and selfish.
- • Sometimes people love money more than God.
- • People can be saved if they will just turn away from their sins.
- • What did you learn about yourself?
- • God can see my heart.
- • I am a sinner.
- • I want to be sorrowful and repentant about my sin.