“The Israelites traveled on and camped in the plains of Moab near the Jordan across from Jericho” (Numbers 22:1). God had compassionately and patiently provided for them for four long decades. The journey was almost complete. The Promised Land was just around the corner.
Israel had crushed the Amorites in battle, so the Moabites were “terrified of the people because they were numerous, and Moab dreaded the Israelites” (Numbers 22:3). This led the Moabite king, Balak, to seek the assistance of Balaam, a false prophet from the east. Balak “sent messengers to Balaam son of Beor at Pethor, which is by the Euphrates in the land of his people. Balak said to him, ‘Look, a people has come out of Egypt; they cover the surface of the land and are living right across from me. Please come and put a curse on these people for me because they are more powerful than I am. I may be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land, for I know that those you bless are blessed and those you curse are cursed’ ” (Numbers 22:5–6). Balaam accepted Balak’s invitation.
As Balaam traveled west toward Moab, “the angel of the Lord took his stand on the path to oppose him. Balaam was riding his donkey, and his two servants were with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing on the path with a drawn sword in his hand, she turned off the path and went into the field” (Numbers 22:22–23). “Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow passage between the vineyards, with a stone wall on either side. The donkey saw the angel of the Lord and pressed herself against the wall, squeezing Balaam’s foot against it” (Numbers 22:24–25). Later, and for the third time, “the angel of the Lord went ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn to the right or the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she crouched down under Balaam” (Numbers 22:26–27). Each time the donkey shied away from “the angel of the Lord,” Balaam beat the beast. And with each beating, the donkey miraculously spoke to its master. Read it... I’m not making it up! Yep! A talking donkey!
Finally, “the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the path with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam knelt low and bowed in worship” (Numbers 22:31). Who is the angel of the Lord? Because Balaam worshipped, and angels are created beings not to be worshipped, we are left to assume that this is a Christophany, an appearance of the preincarnate Jesus. Mysteriously and miraculously, Jesus prowls the pages of Old Testament!
When Balaam arrived in Moab, Balak the king repeatedly asked him to “put a curse on the Israelite people” (Numbers 22:6, 11, 17; 23:7, 11, 13, 27; 24:10) but Balaam refused, saying, “The Lord their God is with them” (Numbers 23:21). No magical words, no hocus-pocus, no verbal curses could vex God’s elect. The evil priest couldn’t curse what God had blessed! The Devil and his minions are powerful, but God is All-Powerful!
However, at Balaam’s wicked advice, the Moabites “incited the Israelites to unfaithfulness against the Lord” (Numbers 31:16). “While Israel was staying in the Acacia Grove, the people began to prostitute themselves with the women of Moab. The women invited them to the sacrifices for their gods, and the people ate and bowed in worship to their gods” (Numbers 25:1–2).
The Devil didn’t make them commit adultery or idolatry! The false prophet didn’t curse them or cause them to sin. Rather, they were “drawn away and enticed by (their) own evil desire” (James 1:14).
Folks, a battle is raging! A spiritual battle. We must keep our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2). “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5–6).