Why God was Angry with Balaam
Today’s reading: Numbers 21-23; Mark 7:14-8:10
20 And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men have come to call you, rise, go with them; but only do what I tell you.” 21 So Balaam rose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. 22 But God’s anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as his adversary. Numbers 22:20-22
15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him. Mark 7:15
Do you wonder why the Lord told Balaam to go with the princes of Moab and, when he did, God’s anger was kindled because he went? On the surface it seems like Balaam got punished for obeying.
This would seem to make God’s direction contradictory and duplicitous. We, who believe in a holy, just, and all-wise God, can never admit such a possibility. The more likely explanation is that God was disciplining Balaam for an attitude of his heart to which we are not privy. As we shall see later in our reading, Balaam wanted to curse Israel and would have done so had the Lord not restrained him. Balaam was eager for the reward and the prestige of assisting the Moabites.
Outward behavior can look quite upright and proper, but God looks at our hearts. The Pharisees in Jesus day were focused on outward appearances of righteousness. Jesus told them that it was not what was outside that defiles them but what comes out of their hearts. He went on to elaborate, in verses 21-23, 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
Balaam, most likely, had several of these attitudes in his heart that day when the Lord opened his donkey’s mouth to speak to him. Even so, he would later find a devious way to trap and hurt the Israelites. More later.
Beware of the sin lurking in your heart. Confess and repent. God could send you a talking donkey to get your attention.