Wednesday, 15 June 2011 03:00 | Written by Nicasius Kamani


Main Text:  Numbers 22:30-41; 23; and 24


In our quest to trust in God, we make many mistakes that annoy God and cause us to drift far off from him, just like we see in the life of Balaam. Balaam fell into many pitfalls right from the point when he failed to obey the first instruction that was uttered by the LORD. Likewise, many of us, who are disciples of Jesus Christ, continue to commit the same error and end up in the same pitfalls.

In this second class, we will take time to consider three Pitfalls that Balaam fell into, and which continue to entangle many men and women today.

Pitfall 1: The Failure to Understand Spiritual Realities

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.” The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”  “No,” he said. Then the LORD opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown. (Numbers 22:29-31)

It is clear that Balaam was dwelling and seeing all things with a physical eye. His donkey’s hesitation to move on was perceived by him as an act of disobedience. Balaam did not have the ability to link his donkey’s behaviour to the spiritual realities that were playing around his life. He failed to see the part that God, the angel, and his distrustful spirit played in causing the donkey behave in an unbecoming manner. And the LORD needed to open Balaam’s spiritual eyes for him to see clearly.

Let us make some useful deductions from Balaam’s wayward ways:

  • Man has a very strong self-will. (Do not forget that the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?—Jeremiah 17:9). This self-will is so strong that God commented on it in Genesis 6 and said, “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” This fact explains why we are constantly pushing to do many things against the will of God. When Satan entered the world, he changed the rules of the game and unfortunately, we bought into his schemes. Without God’s Spirit we cannot please God—we cannot do his will for, “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.”(Romans 8: 6-8). God desires that we become a people who are led by his Spirit in everything that we do. In this state, we will always be in tandem with God’s will and perceive spiritual realities fast.  It is also very easy to be a people ‘… who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.’ (Jude 19). This is the state that Balaam found himself in.
  • Last week we learnt that as God’s children we ought to spend most of our time at the first four flag posts (the flag posts of prayer, bible study, meditation on God’s word, and that of repentance). The third flag post is particularly important because meditation on the word of God brings about growth in the life of a Christian. When we stick around it for a long time, God quietly whispers clear instructions and makes insightful revelations to our benefit. This opportunity passed Balaam as he sought to go after the inclinations of his heart. We too can daily loose this golden privilege if we fail to take enough time on these things.
  • Spiritual realities exist up to and until the fourth flag post. (In John 4:24 we learn that “God is Spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and truth”). Thereafter, God brings about physical realities to enable us see the true and real manifestations of our folly. A dividing line exists at this point. Flag posts no 5, 6 and 7 have a lot of physical realities to them. And these are usually administered by God’s administering spirits—the angels. We rightfully fall in the hands of angels. If we are obedient, we fall in the hands of angels sent to care for the righteous; but if we are disobedient, we fall in the hands of angels sent to restrain the disobedient—and in the case of Balaam the angel carried a sword.

That is why many people have been killed by the sword of the angels, or the bullet of the angels, or the plague of the angels. In most cases (of course there are exceptions), flag post no 7 is the last station that many disobedient people get to before they end up in prisons, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and the grave. Listen to these verses again: The angel of the LORD asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her.” (Numbers 22:32-33)

When we suffer for taking a reckless path, we like to explain and dismiss our predicaments using various blame-shifting tactics, finger-pointing at others, and in extreme cases we result to superstition and divination—we seek quick answers and quick solutions. This was the folly of Balak. It was the folly of Balaam. It has been my folly on many accounts; it could have been yours as well!

It is all caused by our failure to perceive spiritual realities of this life!

Pitfall 2:               The Failure to Simply Obey God

Balaam failed to understand that to obey is better than sacrifice. He reasoned that God would be quite impressed if he built an altar and offered a sacrifice of bulls and rams. We even see him join with pagans in this exercise, contrary to God’s intentions in the book of Leviticus. He slackened on his part to simply obey God!

“Well, I have come to you now,” Balaam replied. “But can I say just anything? I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.” Then Balaam went with Balak to Kiriath Huzoth. Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep, and gave some to Balaam and the princes who were with him. The next morning Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth Baal, and from there he saw part of the people. (Numbers 22:38-41)

Balaam said, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.” Balak did as Balaam said, and the two of them offered a bull and a ram on each altar. (Numbers 23:1-2)

Balaam failed to understand that God esteems obedience from us more than anything else. Whenever we are busy doing many ‘acts of righteousness’ at the expense of obedience, God is offended by our conduct, and he’s left wondering: “Was that really necessary?” There are many things that we have done that were absolutely unnecessary, because our sacrifice ended up being unacceptable to God Almighty.

Some of these things include:

  • Trying to impress God instead of merely obeying him. (Things like falsifying stats, faking donor reports, saying we are fine yet there are numerous un-confessed sins…and the like). As a father, I am very keen on getting nothing but obedience from my children. So it is with our heavenly Dad. Unfortunately, on many occasions we demand God’s grace and call on his ‘understanding’, when the easier and more fitting thing to do is simply to obey him.
  • Prayer alone is not enough; it needs to be accompanied by repentance. It is much easier to pray than to repent. (We see Balaam repeatedly going to God for fresh instructions, yet he wasn’t willing and able to remain in obedience whenever God talked back to him). This happens a lot of times with us—we seek God’s intervention through prayers, but aren’t willing and able to follow his simple instructions in his word, which would easily solve our problems. The bible is full of examples where God urged us to really remain faithful to him. And where he punished many for lacking this desire and zeal to be obedient.
  • Balaam worked systematically and willfully towards sin. Three times in three different places, Balaam told Balak to offer sacrifices to God in an effort to curse Israel (Numbers 23:1, 14, 29). We need to know that the way of rebellion is the way of condemnation (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12). Many pursue a life of rebellion against God. For example, the Israelites rebelled against God at Kadesh-barnea (Deuteronomy 1:26-27). Saul on the other hand rebelled against God in the matter of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:9). And just listen to what the scriptures say about Saul’s failure to obey the voice of the LORD:

But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion   is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of   the LORD, he has rejected you as king.” (1 Samuel 15:22-23)

As soon as we reject the word of God, the LORD rejects us as well—and we are left on our own either in the hands of restraining angels, or in the hands of evil spirits (who are Satan and his agents).

The greatest thing that we can strive to do as Christians is to simply obey! This is the Good News that Jesus Christ brought to us. And the LORD puts it plainly: “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings (Hosea 6:6).


Pitfall 3:               Loving the Wages of Unrighteousness

They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed–an accursed brood! They have left the straightway and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey–a beast without speech–who spoke with a man’s voice and restrained the prophet’s madness. (2 Peter 2:13-16)

Balaam loved the wages of unrighteousness. Balaam’s hire by the elders of Midian and Moab was called by Peter “the wages of wickedness” (2 Peter 2:15-16). The figure of Balaam stands alone in the history of the Old Testament. The only counterpart to him is Judas (Matthew 26:14-16). Both stood in a decisive moment in their lives and chose the wrong path. With no spiritual, only a heathen acknowledgment of God, greed and selfish ambition were Balaam’s motives (Jude1:11). Greed is condemned (Luke 12:15; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5).

In Numbers 24: 10-11, Balak had hinted that there was a handsome reward that awaited Balaam as soon as he was willing to utter curses upon the Israelites. Then Balak’s anger burned against Balaam. He struck his hands together and said to him, “I summoned you to curse my enemies, but you have blessed them these three times. Now leave at once and go home! I said I would reward you handsomely, but the LORD has kept you from being rewarded.” (Numbers 24:10-11)

Many people have gone the way of Balaam and chosen to receive worldly rewards at the expense of eternal rewards that await the righteous. This is an error that Balaam committed before he succumbed to the sword of the Israelites, the very same people that God restrained him from cursing. The wages of sin is death!

Let us take heed because riches, power and pleasure, if not well received, could be a snare that will hinder us from spending eternity with God.


On the surface, it may appear as though Balaam did the right thing in the eyes of God. But the following scriptures help us see that something big was amiss in his conduct and in his walk with God. Check them out:

  • Balaam was killed by the sword: “They fought against Midian, as the LORD commanded Moses, and killed every man. Among their victims were Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba–the five kings of Midian. They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword.” (Numbers 31:7)
  • Balaam was actually hired by Balak: “No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation. For they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when you came out of Egypt, and they hired Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in Aram Naharaim to pronounce a curse on you. However, the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loves you. Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them as long as you live.”(Deuteronomy 23:3-6)
  • Balaam practiced divination: In addition to those slain in battle, the Israelites had put to the sword Balaam son of Beor, who practiced divination. (Joshua 13:22)
  • Balaam was after profit: Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. (Jude1:11)
  • Balaam enticed Israelites to sin: “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality.” (Revelation 2:14-15)
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