“…Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was contrary to me.” Numbers 22:32
After the death of Aaron, the Israelites traveled through various territories on their way to Canaan. While they journeyed they experienced opposition, as kings feared the population of the Israelites and would not allow them to pass through their land. Because of this, the Israelites were engaged in battles and also victors of battles.
When the Israelites came to the plains of Moab, Balak, the king of Moab, greatly feared for the safety of Moab because the Israelites were numerous and experienced recent victories in battle. Balak sent the elders of Moab and Midian as messengers to hire Balaam, the diviner, to curse the Israelites so that he could fight against them and drive them out of Moab. Balaam told Balak’s messengers to stay overnight because the Lord may speak to him concerning their request. God came to Balaam and told him that he was not to go with the messengers or to curse the Israelites because they were blessed. Balaam relayed the message to Balak’s messengers; however, Balak sent the same request to Balaam. The Lord instructed Balaam to go if the men requested him but he was to only speak what the Lord told him.
The next morning Balaam rose, saddled his donkey, and went with the leaders of Moab. The Lord became angry that Balaam was going (remember God truly knows the heart, intent, and motive of man) and the angel of the Lord stood in his way as an adversary with his sword drawn. When the donkey noticed, the donkey turned away to avoid the angel of the Lord. Balaam angrily struck the donkey. This occurred three times and on the final time the donkey laid down. The Lord opened the mouth of the donkey to speak to Balaam. The Lord also opened the eyes of Balaam so that he could see the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his sword drawn. Balaam then bowed low.
The angel of the Lord asked Balaam why he struck the donkey three times and he also told him that he came because Balaam’s way was contrary to him and if it were not for the donkey, he would have killed him but spared the donkey’s life. It’s interesting that although Balaam heard the command of the Lord to not curse Israel on more than one occasion, Balaam was not able to see the angel of the Lord standing in the way with a sword drawn in his hand, but his donkey could. The donkey, which was without human intellect and also known to be a stubborn animal, was observant and aware of the angel of the Lord’s presence. Balaam, after seeing and hearing the angel of the Lord, acknowledged that he sinned and told the angel of the Lord if he was displeased that he would turn back. The angel reiterated that Balaam was to go with Balak’s leaders but he was to speak only the word that he tells him. Balaam went with the leaders.
Balaam was a diviner and was called upon and hired by Balak to practice divination against the Israelites. God intervened on behalf of the Israelites and caused Balaam to be able to hear the Lord’s instructions concerning His blessed and chosen people. Balaam, although telling Balak’s messengers about God, did not know the Lord. This was clearly demonstrated in his encounter between the angel of the Lord, the donkey, and his blindness to the angel of Lord who stood directly in his path as an adversary because Balaam’s way was contradictory.
As you read this encounter, it should remind us that many people can speak of God as though they personally know the Lord, perform certain acts of charity or kindness, and some may encounter truths in the Scripture; however, man must truly have a personal relationship with the Lord for him to know the Lord and be known by the Lord. The angel of the Lord knew Balaam’s heart, intention, and motive and also revealed this to Balaam and spared Balaam’s life. The Lord told Balaam that he could not curse the Israelites because the Lord had blessed them. Although Balaam and many like Balaam may sway others to believe pretense, God reveals the true intentions of man and He makes it known that His ways and plans will always prevail. If necessary, He will become an adversary to those whose ways are contrary to His sovereign and divine purposes.
"Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,