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Lesson 10: The "Madness" of the Prophet *

Introduction: How many times have you hoped that God would ignore one little sin problem in your life? You love God and you want to obey, except for this one small area which, you hope, God will show a little tolerance. After all, no one is perfect and we are only human, right? This week we study a fellow who is far from perfect, but one who understands that he should obey God. The result is a conflict between his will and God's will. Sound familiar? Let's jump right into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. Nervous Balak


    1. Read Numbers 22:1-3. Balak is the King of Moab. What will happen to him if the Israelites defeat his nation? (He will lose all his stuff and he might well die.)


    2. Read Deuteronomy 2:9. Did the Moabites have anything to fear from the Isrealites? (No. God told His people not to attack them.)


      1. Why? (Read Genesis 19:36-37. Lot was the father of Moab, from whom the Moabites descended. The Moabites were related to the Israelites. God had given them their land. If they had remained faithful to God they would know these things.)


    3. Read Numbers 22:4-6. What is good and bad about Balak? (The bad thing is that he planned to attack the Israelites-even when he was not truly threatened by them. The good thing is that he turned to spiritual warfare to solve his problems.)


      1. What is there to recommend Balaam for this job? Did Balak say "Well, our great ancestor, Lot, served the true God so I will find a servant of God to intervene for us?" (Nothing like that is recorded. Numbers 22:6 reveals that Balaam had a track record of success.)


      2. Let's skip ahead and read Numbers 24:1. How can God speak through someone who is also a spokesman for Satan?


        1. How about you - have you ever been a spokesperson for Satan and at another time for God? (If you say "No," you just spoke for Satan! The nature of our Christian journey is to act more and speak more for God and less for Satan.)


        2. Should Balak have turned to Balaam? Would you rely on Balaam? (No. God's word is our only true and infallible guide. If you know your advisor often resorts to the "dark side" then I would not take that person's advice.)


  2. Greedy Balaam


    1. Read Numbers 22:7-8. What does this show us about Balaam? Is he off to a good or bad start? (The princes bring money so we know Balaam is selling his services. On the other hand, Balaam is waiting on God and not acting on his own.)


      1. Is there a problem with taking money? Isn't that what doctors and lawyers do? (He is being paid for a certain outcome. His God is supposedly open to a bribe!)


    2. Read Numbers 22:9. Is there anything odd about this? (God comes to a sometimes sorcerer and asks the sorcerer a question!)


      1. We know the prior answer cannot be right. What is God doing? (Asking Balaam to notice the unsavory purpose of his visitors!)


    3. Read Numbers 22:10-12. What are God's instructions to Balaam? (Don't go with the Moabites and do not curse this blessed people. God has made up His mind and He will not be bribed.)


    4. Read Numbers 22:13-14. Balaam follows God's instructions, but he does not mention that the target people are blessed. Has Balaam done the right thing, or should he have told everything he knew? (Permission to travel is not the problem, the problem is the purpose of the mission. That problem Balaam withholds.)


    5. Read Numbers 22:15-17. Why does Balak send more princes? (He does not believe Balaam has a message from God, he thinks he is holding out for more money and more respect.)


    6. Read Numbers 22:18-19. Is Balaam giving a mixed message? (He identifies himself as a servant of God, but he seems to believe that his God will change His mind. That God will add something new that will completely contradict His previous instructions.)


    7. Read Numbers 22:20-22. Does this sound like God? What reason does God give for changing His mind? (That Balak sent more princes!)


      1. Is the reporter of this conversation with God reliable? (I doubt this is what God said. It makes no sense - either in its logic or in light of the actions of the angel. The question is made more complex because of the way the NIV translates verse 20. Other translations render it as "If these men summon you." A number of commentators say Balaam jumped on his donkey before he was summoned, therefore angering God. That explanation does not fit the facts very well.)


    8. Read Numbers 22:23-28. How would you answer this question if you were Balaam? (You disobeyed me, you crushed my foot and you are not doing your job.)


    9. Read Numbers 22:29. How does Balaam answer the question? Why would he give this answer instead of my answer? (How can he be an important prophet, worth a large payment, and sought out by important people, if he cannot even control his donkey? How can he harm Israel if he is outwitted by a donkey? It is a matter of personal pride.)


      1. How foolish does he look arguing with a donkey?


    10. Read Numbers 22:31-33. Is this an angel? (No. Revelation 22:8-9 reveals that an actual angel would not accept worship. I think this is Jesus, for the phrase "Angel of the Lord" is often used in the Old Testament to refer to God.)


      1. We look at Jesus as being extraordinarily loving. How loving is it for Jesus to allow Balaam's life to depend on the decision of a donkey? (Balaam knew he could not curse Israel. His reasons for continuing were greed, honor and deception. He would beat his donkey to pursue his selfish course. These were decisions that he, not the donkey, made.)


        1. Have you ever done this - beat those around you to pursue a course that you knew was inconsistent with God's will?


        2. Have you treated others harshly because you felt frustrated that it was difficult to resist God's will?


          1. Did you ever consider that your life might rest in their hands? That if your family failed to resist, you might have died?


    11. Read Numbers 22:34-35. Is this what you would recommend that Balaam say? (God just got through saying that he nearly died! Anyone with any common sense would say "I'm going home now!)


      1. Why does God allow Balaam to continue? (This shows that God allows us to continue on our foolish course.)


  3. The Blessings


    1. Read Numbers 22:41 and Numbers 23:1-4. Whose idea was it to build the altars and sacrifice the animals? (Balaam's)


    2. In Numbers 23:5-23 Balaam twice receives a message from God which blesses Israel. Read Numbers 23:24-25. Is Balak in a worse place then when he first called on Balaam? (Yes! He agrees to pay Balaam to curse Israel, but Balaam pronounces a blessing - one that says they will "drink the blood" of their enemies! Balak announces it would be better if Balaam said nothing at all.)


    3. You can read in Numbers 23:27-24:8 that Balak and Balaam decide to try this one more time. Let's read the end of their third try. Read Numbers 24:9-11. How would you rate Balaam's experience of trying to get rich by cursing Israel? (If Balaam had just accepted God's word in Numbers 22:12 he would have saved a lot of time and grief.)


    4. Friend, how about you? Is God's word clear on some point and you resist for selfish reasons? Like Balaam, you can sound like you are looking for God's guidance when you are really hoping that God will make an exception for you. It does not work.


  4. Final Tragedy


    1. Read Revelation 2:14 and Numbers 25:1-3. Balaam cannot pronounce a curse, but he devises another way to get paid. What is it?


      1. Does it work? (Read Numbers 25:4-9. It harms Israel, but does not weaken the fighting force.)


      2. God was determined to bless these people. How did they manage to thwart God's blessings?


    2. Read Numbers 31:7-8 and 2 Peter 2:15-16. Was Balaam dumber than a donkey? What did his insistence on going contrary to God's will cost him? (Everything! Your money does you no good when you are dead.)


    3. Friend, how determined are you to resist God? Why not decide today to stop resisting and follow God's will?


  5. Next week: Immorality on the Border
* Copr. 2009, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2017 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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