Tuesday after the Feast of Whitsunday
Scripture: Numbers 22:21—23:3 (NKJV)
21 So Balaam rose in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab. 22 Then God’s anger was aroused because he went, and the Angel of the LORD took His stand in the way as an adversary against him. And he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 Now the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand, and the donkey turned aside out of the way and went into the field. So Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back onto the road. 24 Then the Angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side. 25 And when the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD, she pushed herself against the wall and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall; so he struck her again. 26 Then the Angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. 27 And when the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam’s anger was aroused, and he struck the donkey with his staff. 28 Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!” 30 So the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?” And he said, “No.”
31 Then the LORD opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the LORD standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand; and he bowed his head and fell flat on his face. 32 And the Angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before Me. 33 The donkey saw Me and turned aside from Me these three times. If she had not turned aside from Me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live.” 34 And Balaam said to the Angel of the LORD, “I have sinned, for I did not know You stood in the way against me. Now therefore, if it displeases You, I will turn back.” 35 Then the Angel of the LORD said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but only the word that I speak to you, that you shall speak.” So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.
36 Now when Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the city of Moab, which is on the border at the Arnon, the boundary of the territory. 37 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not earnestly send to you, calling for you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?” 38 And Balaam said to Balak, “Look, I have come to you! Now, have I any power at all to say anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that I must speak.” 39 So Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kirjath Huzoth. 40 Then Balak offered oxen and sheep, and he sent some to Balaam and to the princes who were with him. 41 So it was the next day, that Balak took Balaam and brought him up to the high places of Baal, that from there he might observe the extent of the people.
23:1 Then Balaam said to Balak, “Build seven altars for me here, and prepare for me here seven bulls and seven rams.” 2 And Balak did just as Balaam had spoken, and Balak and Balaam offered a bull and a ram on each altar. 3 Then Balaam said to Balak, “Stand by your burnt offering, and I will go; perhaps the LORD will come to meet me, and whatever He shows me I will tell you.” So he went to a desolate height.
God’s anger was kindled against Balaam because he still harbored the secret desire to manipulate the permission of God to go with the representatives of Balak for his own sinful gain. In order to convince Balaam that his impure motives were known, the Lord manifested His anger in a most dramatic way: “the Angel of the Lord” is typically understood as a physical manifestation of God Himself, as opposed to “an angel of the Lord” who is a messenger sent by the Lord.
The fact that only Balaam’s beast of burden was at first enabled to see the heavenly vision was a manifestation of Balaam’s self-imposed blindness toward God and His will. We are also told “the princes of Moab” and the “two servants” apparently remained unaware of the Angel of the Lord even after Balaam was graciously allowed to see Him. Balaam confessed that the Lord, Who tests the heart and the mind (see Jeremiah 11:20), had known that he had not changed his intention to use the Lord’s permission to go with them to gratify his lust for wealth.
Balaam exhibits some form of knowledge regarding the Lord when he confesses “I have sinned,” but it is not necessarily faith. Even the devil knows of God, but does not have faith in God as Redeemer and Lord. This “head knowledge” seems to be all that Balaam possesses, being sadly devoid of the gracious gift of faith. This text points to the tremendous value of faith in the Lord as compared to simple knowledge of a God.