Safe Place with Ruth Graham

I happened to run across a verse  in the book of Numbers in the bible That I hadn’t seen before. Oh, I ‘d seen it and read it but it hadn’t grabbed my attention as it did the other morning.

There is an interesting background story to it.

The Israelites were trekking across the plains of Moab with a reputation for defeating their enemies. They were great in number which they created fear in those they approached. Such was the case of Balak, king of Moab. He knew their reputation – what they did to the Amorites and he was “filled with dread” as they came near. So King Balak sent messengers and bribe money to Balaam, a sort of “rent-a-seer”, a soothsayer, asking him to curse the Israelites on his behalf. Balaam sold his services as seer. He dutifully (using sorcery) sought God about the matter and God told him not to curse the Israelites because they were a blessed people. Balaam replied to the king through the messengers God told him not to curse the Israelites.

The king sent more distinguished  messengers (princes of Moab) the next time with more bribery money. Balaam told this group that it didn’t matter how much money the king gave him he would not go “beyond the command of the Lord.” So far so good. He did invite them to stay the night and he would ask God again about putting a curse on Israel.  God told him that he should go back with them but only say what God told him to. Balaam and two servants set off the next morning on his donkey. Scripture tells us God was angry with Balaam. That seems odd as God told him to go with them but say only what God told him to. So why now God was angry with Balaam?  God knows our thoughts and true intentions. God knew Balaam was more interested in the money and gaining so prestige with King Balak. His motives were all for self.

As he journeyed on his way, God sent “the angel of the Lord” to block Balaam’s way. He could not see the angel but the donkey could. So the donkey went off into a field  avoiding the angel standing there with sword drawn.  Balaam was furious and beat the poor animal – referred to in the NIV as a female donkey. Then the angel stood in a narrow walled passage between two vineyards and again blocked the way. As the donkey tried to go around Balaam’s foot was hurt against the rock wall that narrowed the passage. Now Balaam was furious and beat her again.

God gave the donkey the gift of speech (precursor to Shrek?), she asked Balaam, “Why have you beaten me?” Balaam, even madder, said, “You have made a fool of me. If I could I’d kill you”. The donkey tells Balaam she has been his donkey and asks, “Have I been in the habit of doing this?” Balaam, replied, “No.”, at which time God opened his eyes to see the angel of the Lord. (Usually when the Bible uses the term “angel of the Lord”, it is referring the pre-incarnate Christ.) Balaam saw Jesus standing there and he “bowed low and fell facedown”. The angel of the Lord tells Balaam He was the one blocking the way because He opposed Balaam’s mission and had the donkey not taken action the angel would have killed Balaam but spared the donkey. Balaam confessed his sin and volunteered to go back home but the angel said, “Go with the men but only speak what I tell you.”

Balak hired Balaam to curse Israel. He did not – he blessed them – as God told him to – four times. Balak was not a happy king; he thought he’d hired, bribed, a seer to curse but God gave him the truth through Balaam It’s a very interesting story!

There is more to it as Balaam delivers God’s message  –  you are welcome to read it in Numbers 22-24. Balaam even prophesied Jesus’ coming.

What an odd story. A “rent-a-seer” used by God to deliver His message. The seer being changed on the way because he came face to face with Christ. God speaking thorough a donkey! The seer foretelling the coming of Christ “as a star out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel”. Wow! What an unlikely pair – a talking donkey and a rent-a-seer!

That should give us comfort. God uses anything and anybody – the most unlikely. God will use us for His purposes – even when we try to avoid God, doing what we want to do with wrong motives. Balaam wasn’t fooling God. I don’t think Balaam turned out well, however. In the New Testament he is referred to derogatorily as one who is greedy, concerned about what others think, misleading others.

However, back to the verse that caught my attention!  “One who hears the words of God, who has knowledge from the Most High, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened.” (Number 24:16) I don’t know about you but I want to be like that. Actually, more like the donkey! I want to hear God’s voice – be “tuned in” to Him so I hear him even in unlikely places. Do we loose focus on God by our own greed?  We may look good to others but God knows our hearts. Balaam focused on money and his reputation.  Don’t we do that?

I want to have knowledge from the Most High. The only way is in staying in and studying His Word. He has revealed Himself in the scripture. Jesus said He is the Word of God. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the “exact representation of God”. (Hebrews 1:3) If we want to know what God is like – study Jesus.

I’m not sure I’ve ever had a vision although there have been times God clarified some issues for me in a dream. It isn’t a regular event. I want my eyes open to see as God sees – other people, the world, the events around me. So often I am focused on my world around me. My interests. My friends. My “stuff”. My reputation.

I have a few precious friends who are global thinkers – they think of  events and issues from a global perspective – God’s perspective. . They challenge me to think bigger – broaden my focus.

I want to worship with my heart, head and body – fully engaged. Or do I sit and bemoan the worship music? My mind wanders. I loose focus and waste my time and God’s. Sometimes I wonder what He hasn’t given up on me.

He has promised He never will give up. He loves me with an everlasting love. He delights in me. Not because I am perfect or have it all together. He loves me because He created me. He made a plan for my life. He sent Jesus to die for me so I can live with Him forever in Heaven! You can, too!




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