29 May Have You Been Afflicted By The Curse of Balaam?
*The following is an excerpt from Ekklesia Rising: The Organization Formerly Known as Church
The book of Numbers tells the story of a man named Balaam. Balaam is most famous for being rebuked by his donkey. However, there is something much more valuable to be learned from this piece of history than the fact that God can speak through an animal if He so chooses. Balaam was a man endowed with prophetic anointing by God Himself. Nevertheless, Satan turned his heart and the prophetic gift away from God. Though the gift was meant to bless God’s people, it became a stumbling block to Balaam and to the Israelites as well.
Indeed, there is a lesson that can be learned from Balaam. However, it is actually the lesson about the Israelites that holds the most value here. Remember that the Israelites had been called to separate from the surrounding world. If they were to deviate from this and partake in pagan lifestyles, God knew that they would eventually betray him and fall out of covenant. God’s people must remain separate to remain blessed and protected from the world system.
Balak, the king of the Moabites, was upset because the Israelites were too great, both in number and divine protection. God’s mighty hand was too great for Balak to defeat them (Nm 22:4). Balak sent his priests to pay Balaam to use his prophetic gifts to curse the Israelites (Nm 22:5). Several times, Balaam was approached by the Lord and was instructed not to curse the Israelites. In fact, God made Balaam bless Israel. Here, the concept of blessing and separation are linked once again.
Unfortunately, for the Israelites, the story does not end there. Though he could not directly curse the Israelites, Balaam knew much about the things of God. He knew that if the Israelites were to be seduced into participating in the pagan lifestyles, then they would lose the protection of God and become exposed to the attacks of their enemies. Revelation 2:14 states, “There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality.”
In reference to Balaam’s teaching, Dr. Robert E. Neighbour comments:
“Balaam taught Balak how he could cause God to curse Israel… God would not allow Balaam to curse Israel, but Balaam well knew that if he could join hands with the devil, and cause Israel to commit fornication, in world mixing, that God Himself would send the judgment and the curse. This teaching or doctrine of Balaam, is what the Lord had discovered in the Church at Pergamos. They had in their fellowship certain men who were walking in the ways of Balaam, who taught Israel to sin.”
Balaam was God’s prophet. He knew that he could not directly disobey God’s word and he knew that he could not curse the Israelites against God’s will. However, he realized that by getting the Israelites to turn away from God, they would lose some of God’s protective shield. Balaam taught Balak exactly what to do. He was to offer gifts to the Israelites, party favors, including ungodly women for sex and unclean food to eat. The Israelites lost God’s protection as soon as their source of food, entertainment, and companionship changed from the provision of God to the provision of the pagans.
Much like the Trojan horse, this story breaks down to a simple technique: entice your enemy with gifts. Enter their courts through friendship, bearing gifts. However, the gift is not all that it seems to be. It comes at a cost. There is something attached to this gift. This is the trick. This is the Curse of Balaam.
The strength of the Israelites was found in a systematic quarantine of their culture. In other words, God had instructed the Israelites to protect their heritage, values, worldview, and relationship with God by keeping their community separate from pagan cultures. Whenever they failed to do this, Israel would suffer persecution.
The modern Church has inadvertently succumbed to the same Curse of Balaam. The Church and the world are often virtually indistinguishable. Despite good intentions, the Church has become intertwined with pagan cultures. Relevancy has become synonymous with worldliness. Like the prophetic utterance of Revelation, the evil merchants have grown wealthy from the licentious participation and consumption of God’s people. The Israelites allowed provision from the enemies of God. They began receiving food, women, and more from these false-worshippers. Today, who supplies the Church with its food, entertainment, etc.? It comes from a world that does not know God. The cultures have been blending together for decades and are now nearly completely assimilated.
Often preachers, pastors, and general laity are tempted to focus on verses like 1 Pt 1:16: “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” However, remember that individual holiness, while ultimately an individual responsibility, is far more often a fruit of a collective culture. George Washington recognized this in his Farewell Address to generations of Americans, “Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” Churches are tempted to demand holiness without providing a proper cultural environment for attaining and sustaining a holy lifestyle. This is a flawed model. The fruit of this assimilation is blatant and unavoidable.
Indeed, many modern Christians have succumbed to the siren call of Secularism. We have been enticed by the Curse of Balaam. Here we have only touched upon the problem. Unpacking that problem and seeking solutions requires a good deal of effort. However, no effort is too great. No sacrifice too large. God’s people must once again search for holiness in their lives. We must remain separate from the world.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Have you seen the affliction caused by the Curse of Balaam? Leave a comment below and share to get your friends in on the conversation.
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For more like this, check out: Dear Youth Leaders, Please Drop the Pop Culture References or check out the rest of Ekklesia Rising: The Organization Formerly Known As Church!