But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.
When Balaam was approached by the princes of Moab, he conferred with Adonai as to whether he should go with them or not. At that time his orders were clear to stay put. Upon this refusal, King Balak thought that the business-minded ‘prophet-for-profit’ was bargaining for a better offer, so he sent an even more distinguished embassy to make the same request. Seeing the caravan of pompous dignitaries and blinded by the prospect of lifelong wealth, Balaam returns to the Lord who this time tells him, “If the men have come to call you, rise, go with them; but only do what I tell you" (Numbers 22:4-20).
The Sacred Texts continue the story of Balaam telling us that on his way to Balak, the prophet encounters the Angel of the Lord ready to slay him with a sword. Whereas the great Balaam was blind to the heavenly apparition, his donkey could see the danger of his master’s ways (Numbers 22:21-35). Balaam in his desire for gain had only heard one part of Adonai’s command, the one that said, “If the men have come to call you, rise, go with them”. Sad to say, he ignored the rest of the heavenly message, the part that said, “but only do what I tell you".
This is called selective listening, a ‘disease’ common with children (especially teenagers), but also often found in people of faith (sarcasm intended). How many times do we try to support our theological position lining and stringing verses together that agree with us and justify our tendencies, while ignoring (sometimes even on purpose) the segments of Scripture that disagree with us. This is a very dangerous practice. We should read the whole counsel of God, trying to understand what it tells us, not use it to support our own form of belief; read the Word, not read into it!
This is not all about Balaam. History teaches us more about his perfidy and hypocrisy. It is an honor to have one’s name written in Scriptures, but in the case of Balaam, his name is written as one who is a dandy-bad example of a man who builds his treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:19), even at the cost of putting a stumbling block in front of God’s people (Revelations 2:14).
May we read and be warned!