Numbers 22:12-14 ESV
God said to Balaam, "You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed." [13] So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balak, "Go to your own land, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you." [14] So the princes of Moab rose and went to Balak and said, "Balaam refuses to come with us."

From this point Balaam's attitude is wrong: "The LORD has refused me". Which means: 'I really want to go. I want that money from the Moabites, as a reward for cursing the Israelites, so bad. But God's not letting me have what I want'. This was what was wrong with Balaam: his desires were not aligned with God's. And this was his downfall.

Numbers 22:18-19 ESV
But Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, "Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the LORD my God to do less or more. [19] So you, too, please stay here tonight, that I may know what more the LORD will say to me."

God had already said NO. But Balaam goes back for a second opinion! He is really an inconsistent man. He had just said, "I could not go beyond the commandment of the LORD my God". But he goes and asks God if he can go against God's commandment that He had given him the first time. Balaam sounds pious, but his profession of faith is a lie.

Numbers 22:22-23 ESV
But God's anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. [23] And the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand. And the donkey turned aside out of the road and went into the field. And Balaam struck the donkey, to turn her into the road.

Balaam was so blinded by a desire for money and earthly glory that his spiritual eyes became blinded, more blind than an animal's:

Numbers 22:24-27 ESV
Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. [25] And when the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pushed against the wall and pressed Balaam's foot against the wall. So he struck her again. [26] Then the angel of the LORD went ahead and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. [27] When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam. And Balaam's anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff.

The donkey was trying to save Balaam's life. When things don't go well in our lives, and we are stopped along the way by frustrating circumstances, it may be God mercifully trying to stop us from facing His greater judgment. May we take heed, stop, turn around, and go the opposite direction.

Numbers 22:28-30 ESV
Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?" [29] And Balaam said to the donkey, "Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you." [30] And the donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?" And he said, "No."

It is a shameful thing when an ANIMAL is able to think more logically than a human, when a man is lectured by a beast of burden. Thus we see here Balaam's sin had made him sub-human. Indeed, his absolute cruelty and anger towards his donkey in this passage shows that his sin has made him become beast-like.

Numbers 22:31 ESV
Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face.

God opens the donkey's mouth and now opens Balaam's eyes.

Numbers 22:34-35 ESV
Then Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, "I have sinned, for I did not know that you stood in the road against me. Now therefore, if it is evil in your sight, I will turn back." [35] And the angel of the LORD said to Balaam, "Go with the men, but speak only the word that I tell you." So Balaam went on with the princes of Balak.

The thing is, Balaam ultimately did not obey this commandment. Balaam later advised Moabites to seduce the Israelites into idolatry and prostitution to make them become perverse in God's sight.

Balaam's sin is a miracle of sorts: he witnessed two amazing miracles: a donkey speaking, the angel of the Lord standing with a sword. And yet his heart did not forsake his sin of the love of honour and wealth. This is the evidence that no amount of miracles can change the ways of a person who will not repent of his or her idolatrous loves of their heart:

Prayer: Father God, may our desires be aligned with yours. And if we have heard you saying "NO" once, through your Word, help us to not go back to you for a second opinion. Help us to simply obey your will, with no ifs or buts. May love for money and earthly glory not blind us from spiritual dangers we are in because of our sin. May we take heed your warning when we are, according to your providence, stopped by our circumstances, so that we will genuinely turn from our evil ways. In Jesus' Name we pray. Amen.

Jeremiah 38:2-3 ESV
“Thus says the LORD: He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but he who goes out to the Chaldeans shall live. He shall have his life as a prize of war, and live. [3] Thus says the LORD: This city shall surely be given into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon and be taken.”

Jeremiah's words to the people of Jerusalem was clear: Surrender to the king of Babylon and you will live. Stay in this city and you will die.

These words of course sounded like treason to the Jews:

Jeremiah 38:4 ESV
Then the officials said to the king, “Let this man be put to death, for he is weakening the hands of the soldiers who are left in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm.”

These officials thought that to go outside the city to the Babylonians meant certain death. Even though God's Word promised that they would live, they chose to believe in their own thoughts, rather the promise of God.

Hence, this was the ultimate test: those who believe in God's word would go out and live. Those who disbelieve in God's word will stay, fight to the end like fools, and die, and suffer the wrath of God unleashed.

The instructions of Jeremiah is a type of the Gospel instruction given to ALL of humanity: turn your back on the world (i.e. the world system of sin, run by Satan), surrender to Jesus and live forever. Remain part of this world, resist the authority of Jesus over your life, and experience the eternal wrath of God.

There are only two options. Of course, surrendering to Jesus "sounds" like death: it is death to self, death to one's own will, one's own selfish desires and ambitions. But it is actually the way to life (indeed, it IS life itself):

Mark 8:34-35 ESV

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. [35] For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.

Just as to "go out to the Chaldeans" meant life to the citizens of Jerusalem, to lose your life for Jesus and the Gospel is save it forever. That is the infallible promise of God, in Christ.

But, what does it mean to "lose your life for Jesus", practically, besides martyrdom? It means, when someone sees my life, all they see is Jesus Christ and His Gospel! When someone who doesn't know Christ sees me, they say, "this guy has NO LIFE, besides this "Jesus" and "Gospel" business!"

It means Jesus and the News of His glorious death and resurrection has so taken over and consumed all that we are, that besides those things, we are seen as nothing and having nothing. That besides Christ and the message of Him Crucified we are nothing but an empty shell! That's what it means to "lose my life for Jesus and the Gospel's".

Now, when we live in such a way, people who belong to this world system (especially churchgoers and religious people) will accuse us of a kind of 'treason'. They will say that we are being too 'extreme'. They will say that one must not empty oneself SO MUCH for Jesus and the Gospel. Jesus can just be one of the many accessories of a person's life. You can still keep your "life" and have Jesus too, they will say. Such preaching of 'Jesus + Nothing = Everything' (where ME and my ego is included in that "Nothing"!!) "weakens the hands of the people", they will say. It hurts our self-esteem! We need to FIND ourselves, not lose ourselves for the glory of Another!

But, in the midst of such devilish voices (including especially those of our own deceptive hearts), we must believe in the unshakable promise of God: to LOSE our lives, to go out to Jesus Christ and hand over our kingship to Him, is our ticket to freedom and life! To refuse to do that is to pronounce a death sentence upon ourselves.

Job 6:1-3 ESV
[1] Then Job answered and said: [2] "Oh that my vexation were weighed, and all my calamity laid in the balances! [3] For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea; therefore my words have been rash.

Job here explains why he so rashly spoke of his desire to die in chapter 3. It is because his miseries were a burden that were “heavier than the sand of the sea”. A hyperbole, meaning that he was being totally crushed by all his burdens.

That’s why he spoke in such a way. Why couldn’t his friends understand that? Why can’t his friends understand that “the speech of a despairing man is wind”? His friends simply could not be a listening ear, patiently bearing the hurt of his friend.

All Job wanted from his friends was a little sympathy. Some kindness. But they withheld it from him (v14). Job wasn’t asking for anything super difficult or costly — just a listening ear by his side!:

Job 6:22-23 ESV

[22] Have I said, 'Make me a gift'? Or, 'From your wealth offer a bribe for me'? [23] Or, 'Deliver me from the adversary's hand'? Or, 'Redeem me from the hand of the ruthless'?

But all Job got in return was “right words” at the wrong time. A lecture in morality and theology — which was totally out of place and not what Job needed:

Job 6:25-26 ESV

[25] How forceful are upright words! But what does reproof from you reprove? [26] Do you think that you can reprove words, when the speech of a despairing man is wind?

Maybe you have someone around you who is hurting — physically, spiritually, emotionally. Take a lesson from Job. All they need from you right now is for you to be a shoulder to lean on (and to cry on). All they need you to be is a sounding board, to patiently bear all the rash and empty words of pain. I know, it’s hard. But they just need to say something to let out a bit of their pain. Mourn with them. Just be there for them. As Job said, you don’t need to do anything special. Just a little kindness extended for a hurting and confused friend. That’s all they need from you. They don’t need a scolding, a lecture in theology, or for you to remind them what they already know. That can maybe come later, after the wounds have healed.

Perhaps you have been like Job. Perhaps you have been railed on by close friends in the midst of your pain, when all you wanted was a little sympathy. If so, remember this: all human friends are fallible. And they are not God, so many times they cannot understand what is really going on in your heart, or what you really need.

But there is one Friend who knows exactly what’s going on in your heart:

What a friend we have in Jesus

All our sins and griefs to bear

And what a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer

Have we trials and temptations?

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged

Take it to the Lord in prayer

Can we find a friend so faithful

Who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness

Take it to the Lord in prayer

Jesus is there. And He is there not just as God, but also as One who is fully Human, there to listen with human ears, to comfort you, and to prescribe to you the exact Word that you need to that will be a balm to your wounded soul. Jesus, the Only Infallible Friend, is there for you. He will extend His kindness to you. Not only that, He is dwells within you, from which He will never depart. He will never leave you or forsake you.

A human being often may not be able to handle all your rash and empty words from your heavy heart. People generally don’t like hearing all that negative stuff. But Jesus can handle them, no matter how rash they are — as long as you bring them to Him. He can and will absorb them all. He will not despise them. In fact, He longs to hear them. Why? Because He loves you:

Psalm 51:17 ESV

[17] The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

©2020 by Sherwood Methodist Church