If you press into the details of Balaam’s story, and if you operate with stouthearted integrity; then you will find yourself imaginatively inhabiting the complicated and highly nuanced realities of the world in Balaam’s day. And you will invariably be immersed in the tension of: a healthy distrust of fallible humans, and a holy delight in truth (which is often discovered in extremely unlikely locations).
#1. HEALTHY DISTRUST:
The Boss gives us definitive and repetitive reasons for not trusting Balaam.
Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing [2 Peter 2:15].
Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion [Jude 11].
But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality [Revelation 2:14].*Negative references of Balaam
#2 HOLY DELIGHT:
The Boss gives us definitive and repetitive reasons for delighting in (a) the paradoxical fact that He ordains and leverages evil to orchestrate His redemptive plan and purposes; and (b) extremely quotable truths …even via the lips of villains!
For instance, here’s a sampling of quotations from Balaam:
“Have I now any power of my own to speak anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that must I speak.”
“How can I curse whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?”
“Must I not take care to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?”
“God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
Behold, I received a command to bless:
he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it.
He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob,
nor has he seen trouble in Israel.
The Lord their God is with them,
and the shout of a king is among them.
God brings them out of Egypt
and is for them like the horns of the wild ox.
For there is no enchantment against Jacob,
no divination against Israel;
now it shall be said of Jacob and Israel,
‘What has God wrought!’ “
“Did I not tell you, ‘All that the Lord says, that I must do’?”*Super adoptable quotations from Balaam.
Finally, I simply want to pose the question …did Balaam ever repent? I don’t know the answer to this question, and I tend to think that he probably didn’t. But as I reflect on the stories of God’s scandalous mercy (e.g. see the story of Jonah …especially the final scene of defiance in chapter 4), I’m left perplexed and pondering (e.g. Acts 10:17, 19).