On a day like any other day, Balaam pronounced a good oracle…. .but Balaam, I assure you, did not love the “the dust of Jacob” (Numbers 22:10).
“How lovely are your tents, O Jacob, your encampments, O Israel! Like palm groves that stretch afar, like gardens beside a river, like aloes that the Lord has planted, like cedar trees beside the water. Waters shall flow from his buckets and his seed shall be in many waters..” Numbers 24:5-7. The poetry slavered over the top of Peor and suffered King Balak’s ears to hear no more. He writhed. Balaam had been hired to curse Israel! And, alas, Balaam was willing yet limited by the One he sought to “put a word in his mouth,” Numbers 23:16.
Balaam was a weak man. He hoped to attain both the honor of kings and gods. His oracles were for hire. Love had nothing to do with it. Israel could live or die for all he cared. Important to Balaam was Balak’s pocket book and the favor of a foreign god. “Must I not take care to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?” Numbers 23:12. The statement rings with audacity as Balaam searches for an oracle that will garner Balak’s “silver and gold” (24:13) yet dares not offend an all-powerful god to do so. Balaam, less perceptive than his donkey, has learned to play prophetic games. “The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor,” he declares brilliantly, “the oracle of the man whose eye is opened, the oracle of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down with his eyes uncovered…” Numbers 24:3-4. And the Almighty bends down and whispers in Balaam’s ear. He utters a true blessing. It funnels through the consciousness of the seer, breezing past bygone convictions and pouring out of his mouth with prophetic powers. Balaam, the weak, speaks the mighty word of the Lord for Israel.
It had nothing to do with love. “God is not a man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?….The Lord their God is with them, and the shout of a king is among them…” Numbers 23:19-21. Words so powerful they are sung and proclaimed today on Christian lips. These words were not, from the mouth of their human prophet, spoken with any love or admiration towards Israel. The Almighty’s oracle of love passed over the deceptive lips of a foreign seer for hire. Selah.
“And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing,” 1 Corinthians 13:2. Balaam was nothing. Used by the Almighty. Used and only used. A conduit for one of the most beautiful blessings spoken over Israel in the Hebrew Bible. He could have loved and been loved. Love was so near. Passing through his very conscience. Prophetic powers and the presence of Yahweh did not provoke Balaam to live in the prophecy he spoke. Balaam went home, nothing.