Oh, Balaam. He clearly knows the true God, and he starts out faithful enough, refusing to say anything God does not give him to say. And the second time the entourage comes to collect him to curse Israel, God tells him to go.
So why does he then get in trouble on the way? Why was God’s anger kindled against him? The commentaries say that it must have had something to do with his attitude. So what? Was he hoping that he’d get to curse Israel after all and collect the payday?
It would make sense. He was obedient the first time, but that was some payout he surrendered. Maybe the second time, when God told him to go, he got excited about getting paid after all. God sent him to bless Israel, so maybe he got angry that Balaam was missing the point, or getting ahead of himself, or just generally having a greedy or selfish attitude.
We don’t actually know what his attitude was, but he wasn’t exactly kind to his poor donkey. He didn’t even bother trying to figure out what was wrong.
Anyway, it’s a weird story, and I’m not entirely sure what the ‘point’ is. I think it’s pretty obvious that God was defending the nation of Israel from the pagan nations that were seeking to curse them, but it feels like there’s probably something more here, I’m just not sure what it is, and I didn’t come across anything in a quick search, either.
I do think more time should be spent with Melchizedek, Jethro, and Balaam, though. The men who were priests and prophets of the true God outside of the nation of Israel. (Ok, so Balaam wasn’t exactly a good priest like the other two, but he did know God. Was he like like Jonah and just really really bad at his job? More questions, but the point stands, he knew God’s voice and understood God’s power.)
Israel was chosen to represent God among the nations of the world, to deliver his blessing and bring them all under the covenant. They failed, but that was their purpose. However, before and around them, God was still at work in the world.
Just as God doesn’t wait on us today, at work in those outside of the church whether we step up or not, he was working outside of the nation of Israel. I want to know more about that. I understand that there isn’t much we can know about that, but I want to talk more about it, too.
Often I feel like we keep too narrow a view of things. I feel like we throw up parameters and expect God to remain within their bounds. We’re either dumbfounded when we see him at work outside of our box, or our blinders are so effective that we can’t even recognize it for what it is. I can’t help but wonder: if we talked more about the examples we have of God speaking outside the nation of Israel, would we be more open to seeing God working outside of the church?