The story of the prophet Balaam teaches an important spiritual lesson that applies to believers today. God gives Balaam a unique gift of being able to initiate a blessing or a curse by speaking it into existence. The King of Moab, Balak, attempts to hire Balaam to curse the children of Israel (see Num. 22:5-7). However, each time Balaam opens his mouth to speak cursing, only blessing comes forth. Balak continues to pressure Balaam to curse Israel by offering a reward. Balaam informed the evil king, “How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the Lord hath not defied?” (Num. 23:8).
After several attempts, Balaam is unable to curse the Hebrew nation or speak evil against it. If this is so, then why is the name Balaam so negative in the Scriptures? The New Testament mentions Balaam in three places. If we combine all three passages, we can see another side of the story:
“Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness (2 Pet. 2:15) . . . Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core (Jude 11) . . . But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication” (Rev. 2:14).
Balaam’s sin is the sin of compromise, receiving wages from Balak for a plot to curse God’s people. However, when the curse fails and he is only permitted to speak what God places in his mouth, Balaam forms a strategy that will make his name despised forever among the Hebrew people. Balaam knows he is unable to curse Israel, but if Israel sins against God, then God will be required to curse them Himself. This new strategy could somehow get the Hebrew people to sin against God’s commandments, thus bringing judgment and disfavor upon Israel.
Part of the strategy is to introduce some of the women of Moab to the young Hebrew men in the Israelite camp. These women could seduce these Hebrew men into committing sexual immorality (fornication) and thus bring a plague on the nation. Chapter 25:1-3 tells us what happens:
“And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.”
The strategy is effective. The women of Moab intermingle with the sons of the Hebrews and a plague strikes the camp, killing twenty-four thousand (see Num. 25:9). Moses demands a severe punishment for those who have disobeyed. With the large numbers of people, sin and rebellion could easily spread and cost the people God’s favor. As believers, if we walk in love and follow the New Covenant, we experience the blessing of God in soul, mind, spirit, family, finances, and health (see 3 John 2). When we turn from the truth and sin, it not only opens a door for the adversary, it also hinders the flow of our spiritual blessings. The adversary, knowing he cannot place a curse upon believers because we have been “redeemed from the curse” (Gal. 3:13), tempts us to sin against God and His Word.
If we don’t repent, we will be chastised and judged for our sins (see Heb. 12:5-8).