Based on Numbers 23-24
Balaam felt gratified by Balak’s hearty reception. Clearly, the Moabite king had heard plenty about him, and was convinced that he could help. He followed as Balak eagerly led him to the high places used by the Moabites in Baal worship. From there, he was able to observe the people Balak desperately wanted to curse.
“Build seven altars for me here, and prepare for me here seven bulls and seven rams,” Balaam instructed. Then he found a deserted area and began to petition God on behalf of the Moabites. Instead, God filled Balaam’s mouth with an oracle of blessing for Israel. “How shall I curse or denounce those whom God has not?” he cried. “There the people are, not even counting themselves a nation; yet who can number them?”
Frustrated, Balak reproached the prophet for going against the deal. “What have you done?” the king yelled. “Instead of cursing my enemies, you have blessed them bountifully!”
Balaam tried to explain that he could only utter words sanctioned by God, but Balak wasn’t hearing any of it. “Try again,” he urged, “only this time from a different location where you can’t actually see the people.”
So Balaam allowed himself to be led to a field, and watched as the Moabites built another seven altars, upon which they offered more sacrifices. Attempting again to convince God otherwise, he found himself uttering yet another blessing. “God is not a man, that He should lie,” he proclaimed. “He has not observed wickedness or iniquity among His people, and the shout of a King is among them. For no sorcery will succeed against Jacob, nor any divination against Israel.”
Now furious, Balak commanded Balaam to stop speaking. “Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all,” he cried. Still, the Moabite king wasn’t ready to give up. He took Balaam to yet another location and begged him to try again. But Balaam had wised up. He saw now that no trickery would cause God to curse His people. So instead, he allowed God to proclaim blessings freely through him.
This utterly exasperated Balak, who finally told the prophet to leave. “I would greatly have honored you,” he spat, “but the Lord has prevented you from receiving it.”
“I told you I could only utter the words God gave me, “Balaam reminded the king. “However, come closer and I will advise you how to get your revenge against these people.”
Intrigued, Balak inched closer as Balaam planted the seed of encouraging sin among the Israelites in the king’s head. “To get them away from God’s protection, send women in their midst who will turn their heads and cause them to violate God’s law.”
Effective advice, as it turned out. Yet little did Balaam know that his injunction to trickery not only gained him the promised reward, but also sealed his doom.
Even when Israel did not count itself a Nation, and despite their rocky journey in the wilderness, God saw them as His people and extended His protection over them. He wouldn’t let anyone touch His anointed or do His prophets any harm. The enemy knows that those who walk with God are covered. The only way to break the hedge of God’s protection is sin, which opens us up to attack and calamity that God never intended for us. Consider Ecclesiastes 10:8 – “He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him.”