by Sophia Prinsloo with Barbara Wilmerton Haas
Text Version | Afrikaans
"Mom, I'd like to talk to you," Jane said to her mom as she came home from school. She swiftly tossed her backpack in her room and returned to the kitchen where her mom was preparing pancakes with maple syrup.
As she quickly helped her mom, she said, "Mom, my friends and I were minding our own business, when a girl in our class came up to us, telling us that we annoy her. At first, we didn't pay much attention to her, but then she said that she was going to ask her mom to put a curse on us. What are we supposed to do to about that?"
"Well," Jane's mom said. "There's a spiritual battle going on between good and evil. To give you an example, let me tell you a story from the Bible."
Camping along the border of the Promised Land, Moses and the Israelites were met with hostility from several nations and kings. Moses knew that while they were OBEDIENT to the Lord their God, no one could harm them. The Lord's protection was like an invisible shield in front of them and an invisible hedge all around them. In his love for the Israelites, God kept his promise, helping them defeat the Canaanite King of Arad, who attacked them, as well as two Amorite kings, King Sihon from the city of Heshbon and also King Og from the city of Bashan.
When Balak, the king of Moab, saw how many Israelites there were and when he heard what they had done to the other kings, he and his people were terrified. Pacing up and down his throne room, wondering what to do about the threat of the swarming Israelites on his border, Balak decided to ask advice from the leaders of Midian, hoping someone would come up with a bright idea to save them.
During his urgent meeting with the leaders, Balak spoke fearfully: "The Israelites will devour us like an ox eats grass, all because the Lord their God is on their side, protecting them and doing wonders for them."
It didn't take long for King Balak and the Midianite leaders to decide that they needed more than a physical army to fight the Israelites. They needed supernatural intervention — someone who could carry God's authority to curse the people of Israel — and they knew just the man to ask. The problem was, this man, who happened to be a sorcerer, lived four hundred miles away in the eastern mountains of Pethor in Mesopotamia, right next to the Euphrates River. So, without delay, they sent the top leaders of both Moab and Midian to Balaam, the son of Beor, as a messenger party and carried a sorcerer's fee with them as payment for his services.
Totally unaware of the coming visitors, Balaam was busy practicing his sorcery skills when he heard an urgent knock on the door. He jumped up, eager to meet his potential clients and make a buck or two. When he opened the door, he was glad to see pompously dressed men waiting outside. "Ha! Maybe I can make some good profit here," he thought to himself as he invited the men inside, trying not to show a trace of eagerness to make some money.
After the customary greetings, Balaam asked, "How may I be of service to you?"
One of the leaders frantically blurted out King Balak's message: "We are sent by the King of Moab. He wants to ask your help concerning a problem at our border. A people, swarming like locusts, came out of Egypt and are heading our way. We fear they may attack and kill us. Please come and curse them so that we can drive them away. We ask your help, because we know whomever you bless is marvelously blessed and whomever you curse is utterly doomed."
Balaam replied, "Stay here tonight. I'll hear what the Lord says and let you know in the morning."
That night in Balaam's chamber, the Lord spoke to him and asked, "Who are these men?"
Balaam told the Lord who they were and what they wanted, and the Lord replied, "Don't you dare do this! You are NOT to curse the Israelites because I have BLESSED them."
The next morning, Balaam bluntly told the messengers, "The Lord won't let me do what you ask, so go home!" Dejected, the messengers journeyed all the way back home and told King Balak that Balaam refused to come and put a spell on the Israelites.
King Balak knew this was a matter of life and death and wasn't about to take no for an answer. So he decided to make it much more tempting for Balaam to come and curse the Israelites. Cunningly, he sent more princes, who were even more honorable than the previous ones, to try and convince Balaam to come. And, on top of that, he added a promise of great wealth and honor if Balaam would just come and do what he asked.
The messengers reached Balaam's home again and told him what Balak had said, pleading, "Mr. Balaam, please! King Balak will bestow on you great honor and grant you any payment you want. Just name your price."
Balaam replied, "Last time, the Lord told me NO. And even if you promise me a whole palace of silver and gold, I will NOT disobey the word of the Lord my God. But stay over again tonight and I'll see if He might change his mind this time."
Balaam seemed pious with the God-fearing words he spoke, but the wealth and honor King Balak promised him was so enticing to Balaam, that the prospects of becoming rich became a secret idol, hidden deep within his heart. That is why, this time, Balaam, in himself, really wanted to go with these distinguished messengers. So that night, the Lord answered him according to the desire of his heart and told Balaam that he could go with them. There was one condition though: Balaam had to only say what the Lord wanted him to say.
Early the next morning, the messengers were so happy to hear that he would come with them. Thinking he was going to strike it big, Balaam eagerly saddled up his trusted donkey and he, along with two servants, were escorted by the princes back to Moab. Balaam must have thought that, if the Lord changed his mind about allowing him to go, He probably also changed his mind about not cursing the Israelites. But Balaam would soon find out that he was dead wrong because, as far as the Lord is concerned, He NEVER changes his mind when He decides to bless someone.
The party of men didn't get very far before Balaam's donkey suddenly started to act weird. She bolted off the road, into a field and he had to hang on for dear life. Balaam did not understand what was going on because his donkey was usually very obedient. In his ignorance, he beat her with his rod back until she got back on the road. Balaam had no idea that an Angel of the Lord, with a drawn sword in his hand, was blocking the way, wanting to kill him. Although he claimed he was a man who heard God speak and claimed he saw God's purposes, He didn't know the Angel was there because his heart was wrong before the Lord. It was his trusted donkey who saw the Angel of the Lord and saved Balaam's life.
The road they were traveling on went between two vineyard walls that came close to each other as they continued on. This time the Angel was standing right there in front of them, between the walls. Trying to avoid the Angel, the frightened donkey, squirmed to one side, crushing Balaam's foot against the wall in the process. Crying out with pain, he beat the poor donkey with his rod again and again.
Then the Angel moved to a place further down the road where the road was so narrow that the donkey could not pass him on the left or the right. The only thing she could do was to stop and lie down on the ground. This time, Balaam was furious. In a raging tantrum, he beat the poor donkey with his rod again. What was going on with his donkey? Why was she giving him all these problems?
Supernaturally, the Lord gave the donkey a human-like voice and she began to speak. "HEE-HAW! What have I done to you? Why have you been beating me these three times?"
Furiously, Balaam shouted, "Because you are making me look like a fool in front of all these distinguished men! I wish I had a sword to kill you!"
"HEE-HAW! Have I ever done anything like this in my entire life?" the donkey asked bravely.
Calming down, Balaam admitted, "No. Why now?" It was then that he looked up and saw the Angel standing in the road with a drawn sword shimmering in the sunlight.
From pure shock he fell flat on his face to the ground. With a powerful voice, the Angel demanded, "Why did you beat your donkey like a mad man those three times?"
Without giving Balaam time to answer, the Angel continued, "I have come to stop you because you are willfully obstinate and contrary before Me. In your greediness, you are chasing after honor and wealth. You ought to thank your donkey, because three times I would have killed you and spared her life. But each time your donkey saved your life, taking a beating from you."
Immediately, Balaam felt sorry about his behavior, confessed his sin and said, "I have sinned! I didn't know You were blocking my way. If it pleases You, I'll go back home right now."
Having Balaam's full attention, the Angel of the Lord replied, "Go with the men, but be very careful only to say what I tell you to say."
With Balaam back to his senses, determined to say only what the Lord would say, the party of travelers continued their journey to Moab. As soon as King Balak heard they were coming, he left his palace and went to meet them at the Arnon River on the border of Moab.
"Why did you take such a long time to come?" King Balak asked Balaam. "Didn't you believe me when I said I could give you honor and wealth?"
Balaam replied, "I'm here now, but I can only say what the Lord tells me to say, nothing more, nothing less."
So Balaam accompanied King Balak to Kiriath-huzoth, where they sacrificed oxen and sheep. The next morning, King Balak took Balaam to the top of Mount Barmoth-baal where they could see the beginning of the Israelite camp.
Balaam said to King Balak, "Build seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams as sacrifices unto the Lord."
After a bull and a ram was sacrificed on each of the seven altars, Balaam climbed a nearby barren hill to speak to the Lord while Balak and the distinguished princes waited at the altars. The Lord gave Balaam a message for King Balak.
The message was: "King Balak called me all the way from the mountains of the east to come, curse and violently denounce the people of Israel. But how can I curse or denounce those the Lord has not cursed? They live alone, separate from the other nations. They are too many to count. May I die happy and upright before the Lord like they."
Poor King Balak almost fainted and lamented, "Oh, no! I asked you to curse them and now you have thoroughly blessed my enemies!"
Balaam replied firmly, "I told you I can only say what the Lord wants me to say."
King Balak had no intention of giving up yet. He took Balaam to another place, foolishly hoping that the Lord would change his mind if they changed locations. So, next, they climbed Mount Pisgah where they again sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams on seven altars. Balaam went to meet the Lord a distance away from King Balak and the Moabite princes, where the Lord gave him a second message.
The message this time was: "Listen, Balak. God does not lie like men and He doesn't change his mind like humans. He always keeps his promises and doesn't reverse them. The Israelites HAVE NOT SINNED and that's why He has no reason not to bless them. He is with them, making them strong and they praise Him as their King. NOBODY can curse or put a magic spell on them. God is doing wonders for them and He will make them victorious."
King Balak was disgusted and exclaimed, "If you won't curse them, at least do not bless them!"
Just like the first time, Balaam replied and said, "Didn't I tell you? I must say only what the Lord wants me to say!"
After Balaam blessed Israel twice, King Balak was still hoping the Lord would change his mind and curse them if he took Balaam to yet another place. This time, they climbed Mount Peor, overlooking the desert.
Again they built seven altars and sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams on each altar. Yet, those sacrifices meant nothing to the Lord because the hearts of King Balak and the princes were not right before Him.
By this time, Balaam knew what the Lord wanted to say. At once, from high above, he looked down upon the camp of the Israelites stretching across the plains, tribe by tribe, and the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. As the words bubbled up from deep within his heart, he spoke the third message of the Lord.
The third message was: "Balaam, the son of Beor, whose eyes are open and see the visions of God, who hears the word of God, I see the joys of the people of Israel. They have beautiful homes; they are as prosperous as green valleys and fertile gardens with abundance of water, as aloes and cedars planted by the Lord Himself. Their kingdom is exalted and they are strong. They'll devastate the nations who oppose them. They are not afraid of anything but everyone is afraid of them. Blessed are those who bless them and cursed are those who curse them!"
By this time, King Balak was raging mad. Striking his hands together in anger, he shouted, "I have called you to CURSE my enemies, but you have done nothing else except BLESS them these three times! I intended to bestow great honor and riches on you, but the Lord has kept them from you! Get away from me and go home quickly!"
Glancing quickly at his donkey, Balaam replied, “I told you I couldn’t say my own words or anything beyond the words the Lord gave me, even if you were to give me a whole palace full of silver and gold. But before I go home, let me tell you what the Israelites will do to your people in the future."
So Balaam prophesied and said, "Balaam, the son of Beor, fell down before the Lord God Almighty, Who opened his eyes and ears, showing him in the distant future a star coming from Jacob, a ruler of Israel. He will smite the people of Moab and all their sons. Israel shall possess the land of many nations, and overcome their enemies, arise in power and destroy their cities!"
Then Balaam and King Balak both rose and returned to their homes. As their paths separated, a loud HEE-HAW, echoing against the cliffs, could be heard. The sound also drifted down to the valley below where the Israelites were camping. One could almost see Moses looking up, sensing the blessing and warning of the Lord to keep themselves pure in heart.
When King Balak was resting back at home, pondering the words of Balaam, he suddenly realized something. "Ha!" He exclaimed. "I know how to get to Israel!"
King Balak realized that Balaam revealed the secret of why the Lord would not curse Israel in his blessing! It was because they were not sinning, but setting themselves apart unto the Lord, keeping themselves separated from other nations and their horrible idol worship.
So sneaky King Balak found a different kind of battle for the Moabites to fight against the Israelites, one that would bring harm to the people of Israel. His battle plan would be a spiritual battle, attacking them by making them SIN!
He sent pretty young Moabite ladies among them to invite the young men of Israel to accompany them to wild parties. During these parties, the young ladies enticed the men to sin and sacrifice to the Moabite idols. God was not pleased at all because these men were disobeying his commands, discarding his protection over them, leaving them defenseless against evil and disaster. In the end, 24,000 Israelites died from a plague that only stopped when their sin was properly dealt with.
"You see, Jane," Mom continued. "The Bible says in Proverbs 26:2 that a curse can do nothing to someone who doesn't deserve it. But nobody is without sin and we all are under the curse of God. That is why Jesus Christ came. He is the Star, the Ruler of Israel Balaam prophesied about. Jesus became a curse in our place and died on the cross for us so that we can be blessed in his place. All the curses went to the grave with Him and stayed there, but He Himself rose and took on his blessed place next to our heavenly Father. While we are in Him, we are also blessed together with Him and free from curses.
"What we need to do to be curse-free, is to confess all known sin, and surrender ourselves completely to Jesus and to do his will. Jesus also taught that if we want to be forgiven, we must forgive everyone who has sinned against us, and we must go even beyond that, blessing those who curse us and praying for them.
"It's also important that we don't take part in things like fortune telling, astrology or horoscopes. God doesn't allow these things, because they open a door for the devil to come into our lives and bring harm to us. God doesn't want to see us hurt. He will protect us if we stay faithful to Him. He said we should call upon Him in the day of trouble, and He will rescue us. Praise the Lord for his protection!"
Keep your heart right with God, listen to his warnings and you will be blessed!
1. What sin was hidden deep within Balaam's heart?
2. How did this hidden sin almost cause his death?
3. How many times did the Angel try to kill Balaam and what did the donkey do each time?
4. What did Balaam do with the donkey?
5. Do you have a hidden sin? Confess it to the Lord.
6. Did Balaam curse or bless the Israelites?
7. How did King Balak and the Moabites cause the Israelites to sin?
8. Who became a curse for us and took away our sins?
VERSE TO LEARN:
"Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet" (2 Peter 2:15b-16).
ALTERNATE VERSE TO LEARN:
"Bless, and curse not" (Romans 12:14b).
Heavenly Father, thank You for your Son, Jesus Christ,
Who became a curse for us so that we can be blessed.
We are sorry for sinning against You.
Please forgive us and cleanse us from all our sins.
We thank You for your protection.
Help us to always bless people, even our enemies.
In Jesus' Name we pray. Amen.
CAN YOU FIND THIS STORY IN THE BIBLE?
Numbers 22–25; 31:16
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