Numbers 22 through 24 is the story of Balaam and his hire by Balak king of Moab to curse Israel who was camped at their doorstep peacefully asking to pass through the land of Moab. Balaam is told by the Lord not to go the first time Balaam was asked. The second time Balak sends messengers Balaam is told to go. On the road, the angel of the Lord appears in order to destroy Balaam. Famously, his donkey refuses to approach the angel, saving Balaam’s life, and speaks to him.
This is an interesting back and forth. It’s hard to tell what’s right. God tells Balaam not to go, but Balaam asks a second time and is told to go. But then God has an angel accost Balaam and almost kill him. Balaam arrives at the border of Moab, makes sacrifices and God gives him words to say which turn out to be blessings for Israel instead of the curses Balak purchased. Was Balaam doing right, or doing wrong? Was He following the will of the Lord? If so, why did God send an angel to destroy him?
There are several things to remember here. One is that Balaam is not a man of God. He is a diviner, one who reads omens for money. Two is that he was told once by God not to go, but asked a second time. Even though God gave permission after the second request, that did not mean it was okay to go. A man of God would’ve simply refused the money Balak was offering. The angel tells Balaam (Numbers 22:32) that he risked death because of his perversity. So three, Balaam was being perverse which means going against God. Balaam really, really wanted to go. He did not really, really want to listen to God. Peter (2 Peter 2:15) says that Balaam “loved gain from wrongdoing.” Balaam wasn’t motivated by love of the Lord, he was motivated by love of money. His love of money kept him questioning God because he didn’t really, really want to do what God said.
This is a story of how God used a perverse person to do something according to His will though the person was trying to work his own will. Just because God gave the man permission to go, does not mean that it was in the will of God for him to do it. A man of God wouldn’t have even had to consult God. He would’ve known that Israel was God’s chosen people, and would not have entertained the notion of cursing them for any amount of money. This is why the story seems to have odd ups and downs.
Lots of things we do in life we do because we really, really want to. Some of those things might be against God’s will. Sometimes God makes the things we do work His will anyway though we might not have intended it that way. We don’t even ask God what His will is many times, yet His will is always being worked out. It behooves us to prepare ourselves beforehand to conform to His will in all things by consulting the words He has given us and being obedient to them. Then when He gives us a personal direction we are more ready to hear it and do it.
Just because we CAN do a thing, doesn’t mean we SHOULD do a thing. The way to tell up from down is to hear and obey on a daily basis, strengthening our faith by working with the Word constantly. We work out with the Word regularly so that when heavy lifting is required, we know when and where and how God wants things done.