"GOING BEYOND THE WORD."
The setting: The children of Israel had come to the borders of Moab. They were encamped across the Jordan from Jericho. Balak the king of Moab was desperate, for he had seen what they did to the Amorites. So he sent messengers all the way to Mesopotamia, some 400 miles to hire a prophet by the name of Balaam to come and curse the Israelites. This man had developed a reputation far and wide as one who could put curses and hexes on people. Balaam prayed to the Lord for direction, and the Lord told him that he was not to go, and not to curse for the people were blessed. Balaam told the princes of Moab to go on home that the Lord would not let him go with them. When they reported back to King Balak that he would not come, Balak sent more princes to persuade him to come, declaring basically that he could write his own ticket. Balaam told them that if Balak should offer to him all of his silver or gold, he could not go beyond the word of the Lord his God. Balaam prayed again, this time I imagine with more
urgency, and this time the Lord told him to go with them, however speak only the word that the Lord gave to him. As he was riding his donkey to meet the king, the angel of the Lord three times blocked the path. The donkey saw the angel, however Balaam did not, and he hit the donkey each time he stopped. Finally, his eyes were opened and he saw the angel, who warned him to only speak the word that the Lord had given him to speak.
I. THE PROBLEM.
A. Balaam has been lured by the great riches that have been offered to him by the king. Jude speaks of those who have run greedily after the error of Balaam for reward.
1. Jesus warned his disciples about the deceitfulness of riches. He said that they could choke our lives and keep us from being fruitful.
a. Riches are deceitful because we are led to believe that money is the solution to all of our problems. We think, "If I just had enough money."
b. We are prone to think that money can buy peace and happiness.
c. We think that money will bring fulfillment and contentment.
2. Solomon said: Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with only with enough food that is necessary to sustain me, lest I be full, and deny You, and say, Who [is] the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God [in vain].
3. David advised: "If riches increase, set not your heart on them."
4. Paul wrote to Timothy: "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which some have coveted after, causing them to err from the faith, and has brought to them many sorrows."
B. He is launching out on an adventure that God told him not to take.
1. The first word of the Lord to him was, "Thou shalt not go with them.
2. It is only after they have come back with offers of greater reward, saying he could ask however much he wanted that Balaam more or less insisted that God let him go, which God did, yet it declares that the wrath of the Lord was kindled against Balaam.
3. Twice now the word has come to him not to go beyond the word of the Lord. Once by God, the second time by the angel.
C. There is a real danger when a person goes beyond the word of God.
1. In Deuteronomy God warned:
Whatever I commanded you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add to it, nor diminish from it.
2. At the end of the Bible there is a solemn warning:
For I testify unto every man that hears the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book.
3. You say, "That only applies to the book of Revelation." Are you absolutely certain? I for one am not willing to take a chance.
II. THE LORD SPOKE THROUGH BALAAM MANY BEAUTIFUL WORDS OF PROPHECY.
God [is] not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do [it]? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God [is] with him, and the shout of a king [is] among them.
God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.
Surely [there is] no enchantment against Jacob, neither [is there] any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought!
I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.
And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly.
Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city.
III. KING BALAK WAS FURIOUS WITH BALAAM, WE READ:
And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he clapped his hands together: and Balak said unto Balaam, I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, you have blessed them these three times.
Therefore now flee thou to thy place: I thought to promote thee unto great honour; but, lo, the LORD hath kept thee back from honour.
A. At this point the best and wisest thing that Balaam could have done, would be to follow the command and flee home. But that last phrase caught him in a trap. I intended to promote you to great honor, but the Lord has kept you from that honor.
1. Never seek the honor or riches that the Lord has kept from you.
2. It was the desire for the great riches promised to him that had caused him to come against the Lord's will. Peter said that he loved the wages of unrighteousness.
3. Now he is seeing those riches evaporating.
4. It is at this point that he went beyond what the Lord had commanded him. He is too close to being a rich man. He, like so many today, is willing to compromise his relationship with God in order to be rich.
5. He could not bring a curse on the people, but he advised the king how he could bring a curse on the people.
6. He encouraged the king to have the people treat them kindly, to invite them into their homes and then to ask them to join them in the worship of their gods.
7. He encouraged the young girls to flirt with the boys and draw them to their beds, and then show them how they worshipped the goddess of fertility.
B. The Lord commanded Moses to be His instrument of vengeance upon the Midianites who had joined with King Balak in the plot to destroy the people of God by leading them into idolatry. God delivered them into the hand of Israel, and they killed all the men but they brought back the women and children as captives.
And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them without the camp.
And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, [with] the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle.
And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?
Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor,
IV. SOME POSTSCRIPTS TO THE STORY.
A. We read that when Israel fought against and defeated Median, that one of the casualties in the battle was Balaam. He was killed in the conflict.
1. He had gained the riches by his evil council, going beyond the word of God, but he was never able to spend those riches.
2. In the New Testament we read of the error of Balaam. What was the error of Balaam?
a. He thought he could better himself by going beyond the word, instead it brought his death.
b. He put his love for money, above his love for the word of God.
c. He thought if he could cause Israel to sin, that God would completely destroy them. He did not listen to the words of his own prophecy, "He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, nor any perverseness in Israel."
3. The doctrine of Balaam.
a. To introduce the people of God to idolatry, and spiritual fornication.
b. The people of the church of Pergamus had begun to introduce idols possibly as adornment to their places of worship. Perhaps even idols of Mary and of Jesus. God's law plainly said that they were not to make any images of the likeness of anything in heaven or on the earth to bow before them to worship them. Fornication in the scriptures often refers to spiritual fornication; i.e., the worship of God in an unprescribed way.
c. God's word is complete. He has given unto us all that pertains to the life of Godliness, we do not need anything more. In fact, we are admonished not to add to it or to take away from it. To do so is to put your own life in peril.
There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it [is] common among men:
A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this [is] vanity, and it [is] an evil disease.