I’ve always been a bit puzzled by Balaam’s story. It seems God told him to do something, then tried to kill him when he did it. (I also have to admit I laugh every time I read Balaam’s response to his talking donkey. He answered her like it was the most natural thing to hear words coming out of a donkey’s mouth. Makes me smile)
Anyway… I’ve spent some time looking at what others have to say about this passage of Scripture, and today the lightbulb finally turned on. Let’s see if I can put into words what I see here:
King Balak’s men came to a prophet by the name of Balaam, and asked him to join them, to go back to Balak, and to curse the people of Israel. Balaam does what I think he should have done, he waited for God to tell him His will in the matter.
Balaam ends up telling the men that God refused to let him go with them. Which was true. But Balaam left out an important detail. God had said, “You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.” That’s the message Balak’s men should have taken back with them. The story might have ended there.
But Balak tried again, with more important men representing him. Surely Balaam didn’t mean God was holding him prisoner. Maybe a new bunch of messengers would convince Balaam to come, with or without God’s blessing. Worth a try. Their request was the same as before: come with us and curse Israel.
Here’s another mistake: Balaam decided to go back to God and ask again what he should do. I wonder what made Balaam think God would change His mind about not cursing His people. Maybe Balaam WANTED to go to King Balak with these important people. He said he didn’t want Balak’s money. But I wonder if his actions reveal something else.
Was he really asking God to give him permission to sin? Did Balaam want God’s blessing on sin? How many times does God need to say, “No” before we hear Him? (Should I curse Israel? Should I rob this bank? Should I spread this hurtful rumor? Duh!)
But this time God gives the go-ahead. So Balaam jumps on his donkey and heads to the king of Moab. God’s WILL was that Balaam stay. He made that plain the first time Balaam asked. But God gave permission for him to go after the second request. It was obviously not God’s will because He gave Balaam three opportunities to turn back. God tried to prevent Balaam from putting himself in a tenuous position. But it wasn’t until the donkey spoke up, that Balaam’s eyes were finally opened. He fell on his face, and admitted his sin.
The angel called Balaam’s actions “reckless.” Balaam called it “sin.”
Sometimes Scripture tells us to pray persistently. Like Jesus’ parable of the neighbor who kept knocking because he needed food for some unexpected visitors. Or like the Gentile woman who kept asking Jesus to heal her daughter. We learn that if we keep asking, there are blessings.
In this case, however, we’re told not to keep asking, or there are consequences. What’s the difference?
You are wasting your breath if you keep going to God and asking Him to permit a sin, or condone a sin, or bless a sin. If what you are asking is clearly a sin, hear Him say the first time, “NO,” and let it go. You put yourself in difficult positions if you keep thinking He’ll change His mind.
But if what you are asking is in line with Scripture, then go for it. Keep asking. Keep praying. You might have to wait for an answer, but there are blessings even in the waiting.
Just be honest with yourself and God about what it is you are asking Him for. You can dress up a sin with good intentions, but it’s still a sin.
And God is never going to bless a sin, no matter how many times you ask.