Written by Nicasius Kamani



Main Text: Numbers 22


When king Balak’s representatives came and presented their request to Balaam, he initially did the right thing—he sought to know the will of God regarding the matter at hand (Numbers 22:8). Balaam prayed. After praying, he told Balak’s representatives that the LORD had refused to give him leave to go with them. And the matter should have ended there! However, Balak sent more princes who brought more gifts (and a fee of divination) to Balaam. After this, Balaam committed his first error: he prayed a second time to the LORD hoping for a different answer to the same question. This was a grave mistake! It is a mistake that we all make. Malachi 3:6 says that, ‘I the LORD do not change.” And Psalm 119:89 says, ‘Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.’

And sure enough God’s nature does not change! Even though Balaam knew the right thing to do, but still chose to follow what his flesh craved, God never forsook him. God remained faithful and true to his nature.

To enable us learn valuable lessons from the error of Balaam, we’ll take a tour through his experiences and pose at seven points—which, for the sake of this class we’ll call ‘flag posts’—at which God would have desired to see Balaam turn back to the right path, the path that he was forsaking.

I hope and pray that at the end of this study, we’ll learn the sad reality that once a person has forsaken the truth, the restraint of God’s grace is not there anymore. We’ll also learn that when the dominant control of the flesh takes control of an individual, that person rushes to fulfil fleshly desires only.

Flag Post 1:        When Unsure, Enquire from God

The story of Balaam is one of the strange yet true stories of the Bible. It happened to the Moabites while the Israelites were camped in Moab listening to Moses. Moses was not the only prophet in Moab at the time. The Moabites and Midianites were receiving oracles (prophecies or forewarnings) from God through one of their diviners, Balaam. He was a prophet of the one true God. The arrival of the Israelites alarmed Balak, king of Moab. He called upon the services of Balaam, who had a reputation for powerful divining. Balak wanted Balaam to put a curse upon the Israelites so as to stop their progress.

This request seemed to disturb Balaam and at this juncture, he made a good decision—he chose to enquire from God on what to do.

The elders of Moab and Midian left, taking with them the fee for divination. When they came to Balaam, they told him what Balak had said. “Spend the night here,” Balaam said to them, “and I will bring you back the answer the LORD gives me.” So the Moabite princes stayed with him. (Numbers 22:7-8)

Learning Point: Balaam did well by resulting to God at this crucial moment. And God came through to him as   expected. It is important to enquire from God whenever we are faced with uncertain situations. God has        the best answer; he actually has all the answers to all situations. Making daily reference to his           word guarantees us safety from wandering off to the enemy’s territory. And so I ask: What is your                frame of reference? Where do you get answers and solutions to your life’s challenges? Is God your first         stop—your first flag post?

Train yourself to always—I mean always—make God your first flag post at the beginning of every day, every project, every relationship, every major undertaking, and watch yourself live an amazing life, as God                intended for you.

This is the flag post of PRAYER! We begin our faithful walk with God on our knees!

Flag Post 2:        The Clarity and Simplicity of God’s Word

But God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.” (Numbers 22:12)

Now, it is important to mention here that the Moabites didn’t have anything to fear from Israel, for they were the people of Lot’s descendants, and the LORD had told Moses (in Deuteronomy 2:17-19) to pass by Moab and the land belonging to the Ammonites because he had given it to the descendants of Lot, in honor of his covenant with Abraham. So, God comes to Balaam and tells him not to go with the men Balak had sent, and not to put a curse on Israel for they were blessed. Balaam tells Balak’s princes that he could not go with them. And the men return to Moab.

When we seek to enquire from God, our Father is quick to shed enough light and clarity, leaving no ambiguity in the manner that we should obey.

Learning Point: In this particular case, Balaam was not supposed to travel back with Balak’s princes and the     Israelites were to be left alone, for they were God’s blessed lot.

Could God’s response have been any clearer or simpler? Had Balaam taken time to listen, it would have               dawned on him that actually God was profoundly right in his simple reply. It would have occurred to him    that God looks at a situation from all dimensions (short-term, long-term, eternal, personal, communal,      and even from a global perspective) before he gives us his instructions.

How much time do we spend daily at the second flag post? How much attention do we pay at this flag post listening to God and seeking his guidance? It ought to be the station that interests us the most.

This is the flag post of BIBLE STUDY! It is here that we get clarity on how to be at our best in life!

Flag Post 3:        Many Choose to Distort God’s Word

The next morning Balaam got up and said to Balak’s princes, “Go back to your own country, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you.” (Numbers 22:13)

It is amazing how we quickly distort the word of God through vital omissions and additions to it, outright misrepresentation, and blatant misinterpretation. In response to Balak’s princes, Balaam omitted the part that said, ‘You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed’Had he spoken the exact words that God had uttered to him, the matter would most likely have been settled, and the princes would have returned home aware that God’s hand was upon the Israelites.

On their part, the princes distorted these words of Balaam further. They reported to the king that ‘Balaam refused to come with us’. They omitted some vital details that Balaam had mentioned to them—‘Go back to your land for the Lord has refused to let me go with you.’ Conspicuously, there was no mention of God to the king, making him misjudge Balaam’s intentions. And so ‘…Balak sent other princes, more numerous and more distinguished than the first’. The stakes were raised and Balaam found himself caught up between honoring God (and forfeit material gains from king Balak) and having to please the king by going back with the princes.

Learning Point: It is dangerous to get closely involved with people who have no regard for the LORD! Such people           easily distort the word of God to justify their evil desires and achieve their selfish goals. And when this            happens, it is not easy to tell the difference between what God said in his word and man’s evil schemes.             And the                 final outcome contradicts God’s divine plan for us.

Those who have learnt to trust in God obey him without questioning and without counting the cost of    what they are forfeiting. They obey God fully not partially, and they are not apologetic to any one—they         are only set on pleasing God.

Have you ever caught yourself spending unnecessarily long time trying to distort God’s word to suit your               evil schemes? Have you misrepresented and concealed vital details from His word to justify yourself?            Many people have veered off from the right path right at this flag post.

This is the flag post of MEDITATION on God’s word! It is here that deep conviction is built and nurtured!

Flag Post 4:        A Second Chance, But with a Condition

That night God came to Balaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.” (Numbers 22:20)

Balaam insisted on making a second enquiry from God, on whether to go with Balak’s second delegation of princes. God had not changed his mind; and all the other factors had also remained constant. There was no need of subjecting God to this enquiry again. The word he had spoken in verse 12 was potent and trustworthy enough. That is God’s nature, and we need not take him back to the first flag post once he has clearly given his answer. We need to cease insisting and graciously accept his verdict as being far superior to that of all men put together.

The God we serve is truly a compassionate Father. He is not quick to cast us out of his presence without giving us another chance—an opportunity to prove that we can indeed trust in him. The condition that he puts on us is nothing strange; he insists that we must ‘do only what he tells us’.

Learning Point: In our quest to trust in God, there are times when we will insist on our own ways, and ignore    God’s commands. Even at this point, God is not quick to cast us out of his presence. He still allows us to    move on, but on one condition that we will do only what he tells us. This is very refreshing indeed for it        brings out God’s grace, which is guaranteed to all who will   keep recommitting themselves to the LORD.

When we mess up, we rarely go back to God for fresh instructions. And when we do, we receive renewed            instructions from our Father:  “go… but do only what I tell you.” We ought to spend able time at this            fourth flag post.

This is the flag post of REPENTANCE! It is here that we receive a new lease of life, every time!

Flag Post 5:        The First Signal to Turn Back

Now, if Balaam had obeyed God’s secondary command (to go with them, but do only what He tells him), all would have gone well with him. But typical of Balaam, he chose not to. God, the one who is able of read our motives and inner thoughts must have seen that Balaam was still bent on his own selfish mission. This provoked God’s anger prompting him to call on his heavenly hosts to deal with Balaam—and he found himself at the mercy of an angel.

Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab.  But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, she turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat her to get her back on the road. (Numbers 22:21-23)

God is now pretty upset with Balaam, and he has handed him over to one of his angels, hoping that the angel will compel him to turn away from his evil path. The angel decides to block Balaam along a wide road. This gave him an easy option of turning back from his wicked mission. The donkey sensed danger and veered off into the field, hoping to turn back. But ‘Balaam beat her to get her back on the road’ (Verse 23). This is characteristic of those who don’t trust in God. Their insistence on their ways leads them to utter destruction.

Learning Point: We learn that when we fail to trust in God, our gracious LORD decides to use his angels to compel          us to submission. When he does so, we had better turn back quickly before we face their lethal action.

We also learn that there could be ‘donkeys’ in our lives, on which we ride on. These could be an               undertaking, a desire, a relationship, a career, a business, a commitment, or an asset… that sets us on the    path to destruction. Can you identify various donkeys that are in our life today?

God has used his angels for very many purposes. When we are obedient to his word, he can use them to              nurture us, like was the case with Jesus where, ‘The devil left him, and angels came and attended him’       (Mat 4:11). And also, ‘An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.’ (Luke 22:43)

Had Balaam turned back, maybe, everything would have been fine with him. But he persisted… and his                options narrowed even further as we see in the next flag post.

Flag Post 6:        The Second Signal to Turn Back

Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between two vineyards, with walls on both sides. 25When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat her again. (Numbers 22:24-25)

The angel is still on the path of Balaam and his donkey, but this time they are treading along a very narrow path between two vineyards, with walls on both sides. The options are diminishing. It is not so easy to turn around at this point, but maybe, Balaam could still turn around. It is at this point that we see the donkey crush and inflict pain on Balaam’s foot. His rebellion is now causing him bodily harm.

Learning Point: Wow! The word of God is truly clear on what befalls the stubborn at heart. Balaam’s heart had               gotten so stubborn and the self-drive towards evil was blinding him from seeing the obstacles that God    had placed before him. Despite the diminishing options to progress, Balaam was still charging forward,   inflicting himself with deadly pain—a crushed foot!

So it is with us whenever we stubbornly pursue evil at the expense of trusting in God. Whenever the       ‘donkeys’ of our lives inflict physical pain to us, that is the time to stop, ponder, and determine to repent      our way back to God.

‘And Balaam beat her [donkey] again’—a clear indication that no lesson was learnt by him. He will now find out that truly God was opposed to his way right from the time he sought God’s second opinion. He has now reached a point of no return as we see in this last flag post.

Flag Post 7:        A Point of No Return

Then the angel of the LORD moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat her with his staff. Then the LORD opened the donkey’s mouth, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” (Numbers 22:26-28)

All along, the angel of God had given Balaam enough room to turn back. To his folly, he pressed on, and found himself caught up between a narrow place where he could not turn to the right or to the left, prompting the donkey to lie down.  And for the first time, and the only time, the LORD opened the donkey’s mouth and spoke to Balaam.

Balaam was ready to kill his donkey at this point. [Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.” (Verse 29)]. There are many who are driven to this murderous state by the devil—and we wonder why men have become such beasts! Spouses who once loved each other, parents who once cared for their children, siblings who once would do anything for each other… are driven to this flag post because from the onset they refused to trust in God.

Learning Point: God does not delight in seeing any of his children get to this point in their lives. But we are         always   foolishly taking ourselves to this flag post. This stage in one’s life is characterised by utter           desperation. It is that time when all seems not to work. It is that time when all human wisdom and                effort seem not to bear any fruit. We seem stuck in a cage of life—and our cries, naggings, and    beating of the ‘donkeys’ of our lives seem to fall on dumb ears.

Have you found yourself in this situation? In a state of utter desperation? If you have, trace your steps                 back to earlier flag posts, and identify the point at which you diverted from the path that God intends for            you.

At this point, people will literally kill one another.


Balaam continued with his drama in the next two chapters. I would encourage you to read chapters 23 and 24 and study out his character before we continue with this study next week. In the end, we see that Balaam failed to trust in God. Balaam is negatively quoted and condemned by many other biblical authors, including several in the New Testament. His life did not exemplify that of a child of God.


Your Assignment and Reflection Time

1)      Why did the elders of Moab and Midian chose to take with them the fee of divination on their first visit to Balaam? Did they consider him to be a true prophet or a mere diviner? Do your research!

2)      From today’s class, can you list down the seven flag posts that Balaam passed through?

3)      Can you recount moments when you found yourself on each of these flag posts? Did you progress to the next flag post? Or were you able to turn back to God, and to his righteous path?

4)      Have you ever found yourself on the seventh and last flag post? While there, what sins did you commit? Did you manage to turn back to God? Or are you still stuck there?

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