I daresay this has happened to almost everyone: something God does causes a change in someone or something, and a man doesn’t see that change as God’s handiwork, especially if it goes against a purpose that man has set. Since many of God’s people believe, when they set their mind to something, that they are about their Father’s business, they conclude that opposes their efforts is the work of the devil.
The responses range from “Loose here, Satan” to other, less “spiritual” words or deeds. It is not until after they have allowed emotion, often anger, to run its course, that they see God’s hand:
Numbers 22:15-33 KJV And Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honourable than they. (16) And they came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me: (17) For I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people. (18) And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more. (19) Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the LORD will say unto me more. (20) And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do. (21) And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab. (22) And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him. (23) And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way. (24) But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side. (25) And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall: and he smote her again. (26) And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. (27) And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff. (28) And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times? (29) And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee. (30) And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay. (31) Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face. (32) And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me: (33) And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive.
Now, I’ll go out on a limb regarding two things here: 1) Balaam had never struck his donkey before; and 2) the donkey and Balaam did not have conversations “on the regular.” Of course, I could be wrong but, for the purposes of discussion, let’s go with that.
Balaam was so incensed at the donkey’s behavior that when she began to speak to him, he threatened her. For the donkey’s part, her conversation was respectful and reasonable, given that the angel of the Lord stood before her with a drawn sword, and someone out of God’s will sat on her back.
But why does not Balaam immediately ask how it is that his donkey speaks? He was, after all, a prophet of God. Moreover, how is it that someone to whom God speaks does not see angel of the Lord, with sword drawn, the first, second or even the third time?
Balaam’s focus was on doing what God had already forbade, and that robbed him of godly perception. (If that sounds familiar, please do not raise your hand.) A reasonable question would be, “When did God forbid Balaam to do anything?” The answer would be found shortly before the above passage, in verse 12, And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed. (Numbers 22:12 KJV)
Now, if Man A is asked to do something by Man B, and God denies Man A permission to do it, then is it reasonable to believe, when Man A later receives the same request from Man B, that God has somehow changed His mind? Is it not written, For I am the Lord, I change not… (Malachi 3:6)? Balaam himself would later state, God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent… (Numbers 23:19) So, how did Balaam get it in his mind that he should go to Balak and do something about which God had already said, “no”?
Perhaps it was the same way Israel determined that a divorce law was good and necessary thing: And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he (Moses) wrote you this precept. (Mark 10:5 KJV). A man’s desire to do as he pleases, regardless of his motivation, and without regard to God’s counsel, can cause God to relent, but it will never cause Him to repent. God may stand aside when a man is bent on doing something wrong, but He will not stand down; He will not change his mind about what the man does, nor will he change or withhold consequence:
Numbers 22:31-35 KJV Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face. (32) And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me: (33) And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive. (34) And Balaam said unto the angel of the LORD, I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again. (35) And the angel of the LORD said unto Balaam, Go with the men: but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.
Now, please hear this: Even if God permits a man to go where he wants, that is not to be taken as permission to do as he wants. God was prepared to kill Balaam. But notice the persistent nature of Balaam’s desire, even as he acknowledges he was wrong before God: “IF it displease thee, …”
C’mon, Balaam! Do you really think the angel of the Lord was there, sword drawn, scaring your donkey, and calling your way “perverse” because God was PLEASED? Really?
This is common human behavior. Someone will start doing something they wish that truly offends someone else, and they know it will. Nevertheless, they begin. When they are called on it, they make it as though the problem is that the other party is offended, not that they did anything wrong, and offer to stop. It is bad enough when people do this to each other. Balaam, however, pulled the stunt with God.
Which reveals the second miracle that Balaam missed but, this time, not due to anger – that God’s grace and mercy kept him alive. Not only that, but He also allowed Balaam to continue on the journey. However, if Balaam’s way was perverse before God, then why would God allow the journey to continue?
Because it was not Balaam’s going which was the perversity; it was his motive for going. Balaam went to “make that money, man”, and to do so by speaking as prophecy something God had not said. Peter confirmed this regarding Balaam, Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness (2 Peter 2:15 KJV) That was the perversion, and God had to remind the prophet to Whom his mouth belonged. Was the method dramatic? Perhaps, but that only shows how much God values His word and the souls of His prophets.
But how much do God’s people value God’s word and presence? Is it enough to keep them from ever doing something that offends God? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is no. Perhaps a better questions is this: “What does it take to get a man back in God’s way after he has stepped out of God’s will?”
Whenever a child of God gets sideways with the Father, some poorly conceived reasoning may be involved, but some out of control emotion is always involved, But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (James 1:14-15 KJV)
Still, how can he be stopped, and made to see God’s good hand before he deals himself a bad hand? This is what it took for Balaam, But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet. (2 Peter 2:16 KJV).
Is that what it might take for you? Maybe your car has to start speaking to you…in tongues…before your emotional lock on doing what God does not want done is picked. Perhaps your health, or that of a loved one, has to be touched before you abandon an emotional mindset and take on a more spiritual mindset. Perhaps you need to be struck blind as was Saul of Tarsus; it was the only way to get him to start pursuing the Lord and stop pursuing the Lord’s people.
It is my hope that no one ever requires such. It is my hope that no emotion would come upon any man so strongly that he would miss a miracle sent to warn him, or need a miracle to restore him to God’s good graces.