1. SOLICITING HELP FROM THE POWER OF DARKNESS
a. When the Israelites were preparing to cross the Jordan for the invasion of Canaan, who, besides the inhabitants of Jericho, were distressed by their presence? Numbers 22:1–4.
“The Moabites . . . determined, as Pharaoh had done, to enlist the power of sorcery to counteract the work of God. They would bring a curse upon Israel.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 438.
b. Who did the leaders of the Moabites and Midianites try to enlist in their efforts to neutralize the expected attack, and what did they ask him to do? Numbers 22:5–7.
“Balaam, an inhabitant of Mesopotamia, was reported to possess supernatural powers, and his fame had reached to the land of Moab. . . . Messengers . . . were sent to secure his divinations and enchantments against Israel.”—Ibid.
2. AN APOSTATIZED PROPHET
a. When the messengers of Moab and Midian came to Balaam with the invitation of King Balak, what impression did Balaam try to give them? Numbers 22:8. In doing so, did Balaam purposely ignore the difference between right and wrong?
“Balaam was once a good man and a prophet of God; but he had apostatized and had given himself up to covetousness; yet he still professed to be a servant of the Most High. He was not ignorant of God’s work in behalf of Israel; and when the messengers announced their errand, he well knew that it was his duty to refuse the rewards of Balak and to dismiss the ambassadors. But he ventured to dally with temptation and urged the messengers to tarry with him that night, declaring that he could give no decided answer till he had asked counsel of the Lord.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 439.
b. Although Balaam was a prophet in apostasy, what warning did God send him through an angel, and why did Balaam distort it when speaking with Balak’s messengers? Numbers 22:12, 13.
“In the night season the angel of God came to Balaam with the message, ‘Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed’ (Numbers 22:12).
“In the morning Balaam reluctantly dismissed the messengers, but he did not tell them what the Lord had said. . . .
“Balaam ‘loved the wages of unrighteousness’ (2 Peter 2:15). The sin of covetousness, which God declares to be idolatry, had made him a timeserver, and through this one fault Satan gained entire control of him. It was this that caused his ruin.”—Ibid., pp.439, 440.
c. What are some of the scriptural principles whereby those who claim to be prophets and those who say they work miracles are to be tested? Isaiah 8:20; Matthew 7:20–23; John 8:31, 32.
d. What danger should God’s shepherds be able to detect especially in the time of the end? Matthew 24:23, 24. What is one of the differences between a true shepherd and a hireling? John 10:12, 13.
3. BALAAM SEVERELY TESTED
a. Since the information received by Balak was very much distorted, first by Balaam to the messengers, and then by the messengers to Balak (Numbers 22:14), what was Balak’s conclusion, and what did he do? Numbers 22:15–17.
“When the messengers reported to Balak the prophet’s refusal to accompany them, they did not intimate that God had forbidden him. Supposing that Balaam’s delay was merely to secure a richer reward, the king sent princes more in number and more honorable than the first, with promises of higher honors, and with authority to concede to any terms that Balaam might demand.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 440.
b. When the messengers came to the apostate prophet the second time, how did Balaam respond? Numbers 22:18, 19.
“A second time Balaam was tested. In response to the solicitations of the ambassadors he professed great conscientiousness and integrity, assuring them that no amount of gold and silver could induce him to go contrary to the will of God. But he longed to comply with the king’s request; and although the will of God had already been definitely made known to him, he urged the messengers to tarry, that he might further inquire of God; as though the Infinite One were a man, to be persuaded.”—Ibid.
c. After failing the second test, on what condition was Balaam allowed to go with them? Numbers 22:20. Did they call him?
“Balaam had received permission to go with the messengers from Moab, if they came in the morning to call him.”—Ibid., p.441.
4. BALAAM ANGERS GOD
a. How did the Lord show His anger against Balaam for ignoring His instructions? Numbers 22:21–27.
“[Moab’s messengers] set out on their homeward journey without further consultation with [Balaam]. Every excuse for complying with the request of Balak had now been removed. But Balaam was determined to secure the reward; and, taking the beast upon which he was accustomed to ride, he set out on the journey. He feared that even now the divine permission might be withdrawn, and he pressed eagerly forward, impatient lest he should by some means fail to gain the coveted reward.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 441.
“There are thousands at the present day who are pursuing a similar course. They would have no difficulty in understanding their duty if it were in harmony with their inclinations. It is plainly set before them in the Bible or is clearly indicated by circumstances and reason. But because these evidences are contrary to their desires and inclinations they frequently set them aside and presume to go to God to learn their duty. With great apparent conscientiousness they pray long and earnestly for light. But God will not be trifled with. He often permits such persons to follow their own desires and to suffer the result.”—Ibid., pp.440, 441.
b. What happened when the eyes of Balaam were opened? Numbers 22:31. What did the angel of the Lord say to Balaam, and what was Balaam’s reaction? Numbers 22:32–34. What restriction did the prophet regret? Numbers 22:35–38.
c. As the apostatized prophet was prevented from pronouncing a curse upon Israel, what was he forced to pronounce? Numbers 23:20–24.
d. How did God use even an apostatized prophet to preach the gospel to the king and the rulers of Moab? Numbers 24:4–9, 14–17. Do sinners have a legitimate excuse before God if the gospel is preached to them by the wrong person? Philippians 1:15–18.
5. FAITH AND PRESUMPTION
a. Why is a minister much more responsible for his words and actions than a lay member? Malachi 2:7–9; 1 Timothy 4:16; 1 Corinthians 11:1.
“According to the light which [the Moabites] had received their guilt was not so great in the sight of Heaven as was that of Balaam. As he professed to be God’s prophet, however, all he should say would be supposed to be uttered by divine authority.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 441.
“When a crisis comes in the life of any soul, and you attempt to give counsel or admonition, your words will have only the weight of influence for good that your own example and spirit have gained for you. . . . You cannot exert an influence that will transform others until your own heart has been humbled and refined and made tender by the grace of Christ.”—Evangelism, pp. 458, 459.
b. Under what circumstances, and why does the Lord often allow His servants to go their own way and suffer the consequences? Psalm 81:11, 12; Ezekiel 14:4; Galatians 6:7.
“When man exalts himself above the influence of the Spirit, he reaps a harvest of iniquity. Over such a man the Spirit has less and less influence to restrain him from sowing seeds of disobedience.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E.G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1112.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. When a professed servant of God turns to the powers of darkness, how does he often try to conceal his true character?
2. How did God provoke Balaam to reveal what was in his heart?
3. How may we be in danger of distorting the truth of God?
4. How did God use the now apostate Balaam to shed light upon the rulers of Moab?
5. Why does God often let us go our own way and suffer the consequences?