While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18
Every now and then, the Bible allows us a glimpse behind the scenes of the life we are used to observing. While the book of Job provides the most dramatic illustration of the cosmic battle which rages over the human soul, I believe the story of Balaam and Israel (Numbers 22-24) isn’t far behind.
Balaam was a prophet who also appears to have dabbled in sorcery. While this seeming oxymoron may leave us scratching our heads, I challenge each one of us to step outside ourselves for a moment of critical self-reflection. Do we see people who are consistently on fire for God, faithful, compassionate and patient? Or do we find that each of us is a blend of contradictions that don’t always support our professed faith in Christ?
As Balaam journeyed towards Moab weighing his options (on the one hand, obey God implicitly; on the other, find a way around God’s commands in order to earn Balak’s reward), he slammed into the reality that typically is hidden from our natural eyes. Within the space of five minutes, he held conversations with a donkey and an Angel, warning him about his nefarious intentions.
But Balaam’s spiritual encounters aren’t the most remarkable aspect of the story. What I find awesome are the words of blessing over Israel that God forced into his mouth. In Numbers 23:9b, Balaam declared concerning the people he was desperately trying to curse, “There! A people dwelling alone,
Not reckoning itself among the nations.” And in verse 21-23 “[God] has not observed iniquity in Jacob, nor has He seen wickedness in Israel. The Lord his God is with Him, and the shout of a King is among them…for there is no sorcery against Jacob, nor any divination against Israel.”
Israel was blissfully unaware of the battle God was fighting on its behalf. They were weary and worn from their trek through the wilderness, peppered with constant failure and punishment. They didn’t even consider themselves a nation. All they wanted was passage through the land to wherever the final destination might be. And yet, there was God, affirming them as His own, proud of them in their weakness and not allowing anyone to touch his anointed, or to do his people harm – Halleluyah!!
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end on this high note. Seeing that God was determined to protect His people, Balaam told Balak how to get them away from this protection. And in no time at all, the oblivious Israelites were cavorting with Moabite women and tearing down the hedge that God had built around them.
But they didn’t know, you might argue. True. And neither might we realize the pitfalls in front of us. But we could know if we allowed ourselves to draw near to God and be led by His spirit in every decision, thought and action. True awareness of this life can only happen by divine revelation of God’s Holy Spirit. May He open our eyes to see and ears to hear the things which are veiled, enshrouded in shadow – the eternal. Amen.