Day 70: The Offense of Balaam
Numbers Ch 22-25 These four chapters relate how the Moabites and Midianites used magic to stop the encroachment of the now-powerful nation of Israel. Balaam, who had conversations with the one true God, was hired by the Moabite king Balak to cast a curse upon Israel. After three attempts at declaring a curse, he would utter an oracle of BLESSINGS instead due to the intervention of the Lord and his angel as well as a talking beast of burden. (CCC 328-336, 2110-2117)
Deuteronomy 23:2 Eunuchs were excluded from the people of Israel either because of the practice of pagan ritual mutilation or because they were rendered incapable of procreation, which was seen as a sacred duty connected with marriage. A prophecy of Isaiah would later make provisions for eunuchs (cf. Is 56:3-5), and after the Ascension of Christ, Philip baptized an Ethiopian eunuch, the FIRST non-jew to become a Christian
(cf. Acts 8:27-39). While they may be forgiven, Christian doctrine has always considered acts of self-mutilation, including voluntary sterilization, as grievous sins.
Ch 23:21-23 A vow is a free and deliberate promise made to God to fulfill a serious obligation. To renege on a vow is a sin against the Second Commandment; therefore, great caution and discretion should be exercised in making a vow. (CCC 2102)
Psalm 105 Let the hearts...the Lord rejoice: Such hearts can rejoice since everyone who sincerely seeks the Lord will find him. Moreover, union with God invariably results in peace and joy. The key to the search is to be fully committed to loving and serving him. The quest for God not only involves our hearts but also our intellect and our will, i.e., our WHOLE BEING. In the course of this search, we are aided by the examples of those around us who have found God and who reflect a happiness that the world cannot give. If we seek union with him wholeheartedly, we, too, will witness that God is the source of meaning and true joy. Lastly, it is important to bear in mind that it is GOD WHO SEEKS US OUT FIRST. (CCC 30, 2560, 2703)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
Balaam and Balak: Blessing and Curse
After a circuitous journey through the wilderness and forty years of alternating rebellion and repentance, Israel finally approaches the Promised Land.
This time they arrive at the eastern border on the plains of Moab, just east of the Jordan River.
The king of the Moabites, Balak, fears that Israel is coming to take his land.
Given Israel’s success in defeating the Egyptians and the Amorites, Balak realizes that he cannot stop Israel militarily.
Balak tries a different approach; he attempts to weaken Israel using spiritual means.
Balak sends messengers to the powerful diviner Balaam, asking him to put a curse upon Israel.
Once Israel is accursed and weakened, Balak hopes a military victory will be possible.
As Balaam rides his donkey to answer Balak’s summons, a strange event occurs.
The donkey sees the angel of the Lord with a drawn sword ready to strike.
Turning aside from the road and then finally stopping altogether, the donkey incurs Balaam’s wrath.
Suddenly, the donkey is able to speak and rebukes Balaam for not trusting him and for not seeing the angel of the Lord that is before them.
The situation is humiliating, as the great pagan diviner is blind to the spiritual realities that even a jackass can see. (hahahahha and in my mind, I imagined that jackass is DONKEY from the Shrek movies 🤣🤣🤣)
God uses the ass as a vehicle of prophetic revelation, showing that Balaam holds no real privilege or power to harm Israel.
(*Walking With God: A Journey Through the Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)
This is so incredible
All of these readings kind of coincide right now
Even Psalm 105 is a recap of what the Lord had done with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and through Moses and leading the people through the wilderness, feeding them with quail and manna (but not baklava ;) )
In Deuteronomy 23, we got to hear about Balaam, the son of Beor at Pethor in Mesopotamia
God would not listen to Balaam
Balaam is going to open his mouth, because he has been hired to CURSE THE ISRAELITES
Instead, he will speak BLESSINGS on the Israelites
This is remarkable for so many reasons that will be unfolded for us in the days to come, so be patient :)
This mysterious character, Balaam, is a SOOTHSAYER, someone recognized by the people in that area as someone who has some sort of spiritual connection
Clearly, Scripture keeps saying God is talking to Balaam
God told Balaam NOT TO CURSE THE ISRAELITES, THEY ARE GOD’S PEOPLE
The king of Moab ups the price and more impressive people will come to invite Balaam to curse the Israelites through Balak
God tells Balaam that he will only say what GOD wants him to say
As this story unfolds in the next couple of days, Balaam is going to speak BLESSINGS INSTEAD OF CURSES ALL BECAUSE OF GOD
But what we see is a story of Balaam being impressed by the powerful, impressive people sent by Balak and then he is spoken to by his donkey
His donkey saves his life!
This is so strange
After all these days reading Numbers, now we have a TALKING DONKEY!
Wait, is this Shrek? What is happening right now??
What is happening, TRULY, IS A MIRACLE
We have no idea how this worked
Was the donkey’s mouth moving?
Was it a voice coming from inside the donkey?
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
It even seems like Balaam is not overly impressed at first when the donkey talks to him (Unimpressed Balaam...I bet someone here could make that a meme?)
He tells the donkey he’s going to kill him because he’s so mad
This MIRACLE that happens gets spoken about by the early Church Fathers
St. Ambrose says, “The angel is revealed BUT NOT TO BALAAM. What offense does Balaam commit except that he said one thing, and plotted another.”
Balaam was going to take money from powerful, impressive people to curse the Israelites
St. Ambrose in the 4th Century AD goes on to say, “For God seeks out the pure vessel. One not corrupted by impurity and squalor. Balaam was tested, therefore, but he was not found acceptable. Before he was full of lies and guile.”
This will happen later in the New Testament
2 Peter Ch 2: Peter says, “They have forsaken the right way and gone astray following the way of Balaam, son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness. But he was rebuked for his iniquity. A dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.”
Letter of Jude says, “The error of Balaam is for profit.”
What’s going on underneath all of this is that Balaam is willing to sell his soul for money, influence, fame, and power
That can be OUR TEMPTATION as well
As we journey with the People of Israel it is so good
As Balaam is going to bless the people of Israel, we are going to find out something that is SO INCREDIBLE about the very people that he is blessing in that moment
Oooh I can’t wait….cliffhanger!
Keep praying for each other
Keep praying for Fr. Mike
Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven, we give you praise. We do praise you, Lord God in Heaven, because you are good and you are true and you are just. You are just and right in all your ways. We continually affirm that truth, even Lord when we are unfaithful you are faithful. This is a common refrain so we give you praise, because you are truth itself. You are justice itself and you are mercy and you are love. Let us be loved. Let us live in your justice. Let us walk in your truth and dwell in your peace. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”