So the Moabite officials returned to King Balak and reported, “Balaam refused to come with us.” Then Balak tried again. This time he sent a larger number of even more distinguished officials than those he had sent the first time. . . .
But Balaam responded to Balak’s messengers, “Even if Balak were to give me his palace filled with silver and gold, I would be powerless to do anything against the will of the Lord my God. But stay here one more night, and I will see if the Lord has anything else to say to me.”
The story of Balaam would have baffled the Hebrews when they first heard it. Here was a famous diviner who was not a Hebrew, yet he invoked the name of their God, Yahweh. Here was a man whom God prohibited from cursing Israel, but then after a second visit from the king’s ambassadors, God surrendered and let Balaam to go with them. Would God really let Balaam curse Israel, his chosen people?
For the Hebrews, this was a real fear. After all, they’d been living in the desert for decades. It seemed like God had turned against them. They’d been told the stories about Abraham and about God’s promise to bless his descendants, but his descendants—the audience hearing this story—were now living in the wilderness with no sign of improvement. Maybe God had changed his mind, just like he did with Balaam, and maybe God really had decided to curse God’s people.
But as Balaam’s story continues, a bit of humor relieves some of the tension. Balaam the famous “seer” proves blind to the spiritual realities around him, realities that even a donkey could see. And Balaam the eloquent oracle finds himself earnestly arguing with his donkey, and even loses the argument. By now, God’s people are feeling a little hope. Yet still Balaam continues on and meets up with King Balak.
Eventually, despite his agreement with Balak, Balaam ultimately blesses the people three times. For the people, this story brings hope: God’s promises to Abraham have not failed. God will use any means necessary, even a non-Hebrew, to bless his people.
Maybe you’ve started to wonder if God’s given up on you, or maybe you feel like God’s promises don’t include you. The story of Balaam is a reminder that what God has promised, he will do. Look throughout the New Testament for the promises God has for you. God has not changed his mind. Will you continue to trust God to come through at the right time?