In Numbers 22 – 24, the children of Israel, beginning to grow under the blessing of God, were being perceived as a threat to the surrounding nations. So Balak, king of Moab, sent for Balaam (the son of Beor, the soothsayer [Joshua 13:22], so soothsaying, the practice of blessing or cursing another in exchange for payment, may have been presumptively the family trade?) to curse Israel and, thus, eliminate Israel’s threat to Moab. Balak knew that Balaam had a connection with God and, with it, the power to effectively bless or curse anyone. So Balaam told the Moabite princes that he would do whatever God told him to do concerning Israel.

That night God came to Balaam and told him clearly not to go with the Moabites and that he could not curse Israel, for Israel was blessed. So the next morning, Balaam told Balak’s princes to get on back to Moab because God was not going to let him go with them.

Balak persisted. He sent higher ranking princes back to Balaam with promises of great reward if Balaam would just come to Moab and curse Israel.

Now, Balaam had already heard the voice of God on the matter. But, just in case God had maybe changed His mind – just in case God could use some of that promised Moabite silver and gold – Balaam told the new delegation of princes to give it the night and he would see what God had to say more about the matter. So God came to Balaam again that night and said to him, If the men come again to call you in the morning, then get up and go with them, but the word that I say to you is what you shall do. But Balaam didn’t wait to see if there was another knock on his door. Instead, Numbers 22:21 tells us, “Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.” He just got up and went, without waiting for the sign, the condition, that God had given him. And the next verse tells us what God thought about Balaam’s failure to listen and follow His complete instructions: “And God’s anger was kindled because he went.”

Balaam was riding on an ass. (That’s a donkey, for you folk who are offended at that old-timey animal name.) And God sent an angel with a sword to stand in the way and block Balaam from going any further.  Verse 23 tells us that “the ass saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand, and the ass turned aside out of the way.” Balaam beat on his ass to drive it back onto the pathway.

Again, the ass saw the angel and veered aside, this time crushing Balaam’s foot against a wall that lined the path like a guardrail. Again Balaam beat his ass.

A third time the ass saw the angel, this time blocking the path in a narrow place where there was no room to pass, so the ass “fell down under Balaam: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.” (verse 27)

Then God did an amazing thing: “And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?” And after Balaam had a conversation with his normally dumb ass, the Lord opened his eyes and he saw the angel. The Lord asked Balaam why he had beaten his ass three times as He, the Lord, had been there to stop Balaam and the ass had saved his life.

Read the rest of the story to see how God permitted Balaam to continue his journey with the princes of Moab but to speak only what God told him to speak. See how Balak gave Balaam multiple opportunities to curse Israel but how Balaam could only confirm God’s blessing over Israel and the curse back on Moab.

The church is much like Balaam. God has promised to bless His people and to curse those who curse them. But the church – the institution – from its inception as an institution was turned aside by the allure of riches and power and honor from other kingdoms of men – the “wages of unrighteousness” (2 Peter 2:15); the “error of Balaam” (Jude 1:11).

Since Constantine, the church – the institution with its hierarchical leadership structure, teaching the doctrines of men as the commandments of God – has cursed the people of God (the ecclesia, which is separate and distinct from the business / government which has gobbled up the concept of the governing family of God on earth and replaced it with a man-made institution) for the sake of riches and power and influence amongst the other governments of men. As Balaam taught Balak how to put a stumblingblock in front of Israel (Rev. 2:14), so the institutional church has put countless stumblingblocks in front of the ecclesia, the true Body of Christ.

Yet God speaks through His Holy Spirit and His written Word in the hearing of “unqualified” men who are not distracted by those deceitful riches – men who because of their lack of church-conferred clergy credentials appear to the church to be but dumb asses, to be ridden and used as beasts of burden but obviously not qualified to speak the wisdom of God.

Listen, church. God’s people, whether inside your Sunday sanctuaries or not, will be blessed. You can be a vehicle of that blessing, but you must stop being a vehicle of cursing, of distraction, of trying to turn aside God’s people from His direction for their lives for the sake of the advancement of your own selfish, fleshly purposes.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the ecclesia, the Body of Christ.

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Mike Scruggs