Thursday, 9 June 2016


What relevance has the life of this Old Testament prophet to believers today? A lot. Mentioned three times in the New Testament, Balaam and his errant ways still speak to us today.  

Balaam, a prophet of God, had the gift of sorcery—the ability to call down curses upon others. When instructed by the King Balak of Moab, to curse Israel, which posed a threat to Moab, Balaam was willing to do so in return for financial reward.

As God’s prophet, he was supposed to bless God’s people. But he was willing to forsake allegiance to God for money. The lure of gold was greater than his love for God.

Though he failed to curse Israel, constrained instead by God to bless it four times (Numbers 23: 11-12), he had another plan up his sleeve. He advised Barak to cause the Israelites to fall into immorality and idolatry (Numbers 31:16, Numbers 25:1-5). **

In other words, when the frontal attack (cursing) failed, Balaam used an underhanded tactic—sending Midianite women to seduce the Israelite men.

It is not by chance that Balaam is mentioned three times in the New Testament.  This shows that his life holds significant lessons for believers today—which we would do well to take heed.

Way of Balaam
“They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet” (2 Peter 2:15-16).

Error of Balaam
“Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah” (Jude 11).

Doctrine (or counsel) of Balaam
The warning about God’s displeasure over the doctrine of Balaam is directed at the church at Pergamum:
“But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality” (Revelation 2:14). **

The way of Balaam and the error of Balaam remind us of prosperity gospel proponents today who put money above their allegiance to God. Paul describes the latter as men “depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain" (1 Timothy 6:5).

The way of Balaam and the error of Balaam may also be seen in the life of believers who are willing to sacrifice godly principles for the sake of financial gain.
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs”(1 Timothy 6:9-10).

Like false teachers of antinomianism and ‘easy believism’ today who triavialise sin, downplay holiness and repentance, and teach that getting to heaven is easy, the doctrine of Balaam will lead many along the path of eternal damnation.

Apart from his love for money and false doctrine that condones immorality, we also notice the following qualities in Balaam:

  • Disobedience—headstrong refusal to take God’s ‘No’ for an answer. When God told Balaam that he should not curse God’s people for they are blessed (Numbers 22:12), he did not give up on his plan. Finally, he caved in under pressure from great inducements from Balak.

  • Spiritual blindness—he could not see the angel who stopped the donkey in its tracks while he was on his way to perform Balak’s bidding (Numbers 22: 27-34). His lack of spiritual discernment was prominent, in sharp contrast to his spectacular gift of calling curses upon others. Greed for the monetary reward had blinded Balaam; he could not see that God was trying to stop him from being an evil instrument of Balak.

Balaam’s life also reveals that when we disobey God, we may live under His permissive will. God’s will was that Balaam refrain from cursing God’s own people (Numbers 22:12). But on further enticement from Balak, Balaam waited for God to “bend His will”. So God told Balaam to go along with Balak’s men, on condition he speaks what God wants him to say (Numbers 22: 20, 35). If we keep insisting on attractive alternatives when He has already shown us His will, we may be living under the permissive will of God—not God’s best though. A classical example of permissive will is when God granted the Israelites’ desire for a king (1 Samuel 8:6).

Balaam died a tragic death (Numbers 31:12), slain when the Israelite army executed God’s vengeance on the Midianites, those who had earlier caused God’s people to fall into sexual immorality (Numbers 25: 1-5). **

What a way for a prophet of God to die—in a state of apostasy while consorting with the enemy. For his rebellion against God’s will, there is not a glimmer of hope for Balaam in eternity; only gloom awaits him. For one who once enjoyed easy access to the counsel of the almighty God, who hears God’s words and then proclaims it to His people, how he made his exit in life is indeed most ignominious.

Today, a famous prophet or man of God may have many followers and perform great signs and wonders but he may not be doing God’s will. He may have everything people could possibly ask for: Fame, glory, riches and power. But the fact remains he has lost God’s favour through utter defiance of His will. One day, he will have to face the wrath of God on judgment day.

“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’”(Matthew 7: 22-23).

It is mind-boggling how a man of God can have within him the spirit of prophecy as well as the spirit of sorcery. Here we have a prophet and a sorcerer, a personification of good and evil, a man with great spiritual power but lacking in character.

It is sad that, though he can hear God’s voice, he is spiritually blind.

Overcome by greed and filled with the spirit of compromise, he would rather consort with the enemy of God’s people.

And compromise is like leaven. It spreads its destructive influence slowly but surely. One compromise leads to another and, soon, even immorality and idolatry are condoned. How could a prophet not know that such practices are offensive to a holy God?

To conclude, Balaam’s life reminds us that we may start well in our faith journey but may not necessarily end well.

Being God’s chosen one, even his blue-eyed boy, is not enough. We have to remain steadfast and faithful till the end.


There are some ministers today who have all the trimmings and form of religion but inwardly harbour an ambition for the world’s goods. They may have started out well but, along the way, got bedazzled by riches. Their ethos is coloured by material comforts and well-being far above spiritual considerations.

What do you think is the true measure of a believer? Does it rest solely on how much anointing or power he or she has? Or how many spectacular feats he or she can perform?

If we start well in our journey of faith, does it mean we will definitely end well?

God in His sovereignty may choose us but that's only part of the equation. What else is needed?

How do we know the difference?


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