The Book of Numbers – When God Speaks through Unexpected Sources

We find ourselves in Numbers 24 continuing through the story of King Balak and Balaam. King Balak of Moab hires the diviner Balaam to curse Israel. In the previous chapter, we saw that twice Balaam blessed the Israelites instead of cursing them as God had placed the message he desired to be spoken in Balaam’s mouth. At this point Balaam realises that God wanted to bless and not curse Israel and no amount of divination, sorcery or manipulation could change the will of God.

Num 24:1-3a “Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not resort to divination as at other times but turned his face toward the wilderness. When Balaam looked out and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the Spirit of God came on him and he spoke his message”.

Balaam’s Third Oracle (verses 3b-9)

This time more than just a blessing pours out. Balaam foretells the abundant blessings the Israelites would have in the promised land as well as how strong and victorious they will be against their enemies. Then Balaam ends this oracle by restating God’s promise to Abraham, “May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!”

When Balak hears this, he is furious and says to Balaam “I summoned you to curse my enemies, but you have blessed them these three times. Now leave at once and go home! I said I would reward you handsomely, but the Lord has kept you from being rewarded.” (verse 10-11).

Balaam’s response: “Did I not tell the messengers you sent me, ‘Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything of my own accord, good or bad, to go beyond the command of the Lord—and I must say only what the Lord says’? (verse 12-13)

Balaam’s response gives us the impression that he was obedient to God, but what kind of a person was he? Do his words and his intentions match up? Let’s look at scripture to understand better.

What kind of a person was Balaam?

He was a pagan prophet, who practiced sorcery (Num 24). He was motivated by money. Although he had some knowledge of God, when God instructed him to not curse his people, he completely disregarded God and followed his own self-interests (Num 22). The angel of the Lord confronted him when he was on the road to meet King Balak, his donkey could see the angel of the Lord and rebuked him. Balaam was momentarily frightened and bowed to God but soon rushed into what he desired (Num 22). Balaam tried his best to manipulate God and place a curse on the Israelites but the only words that he could utter were blessings on them that the Lord placed in his mouth (Num 23). We learn a bit more about Balaam as we go through the book of Numbers, but scripture tells us that he loved the wages of wickedness (2 Peter 2:15).


Reading Balaam’s story of his encounter on the road, reminded me of another well-known story in scripture of Saul when he encountered the Lord on the road (Acts 9). Saul, later known as Paul was a zealous Pharisee who persecuted the followers of Jesus. He was on his way to Damascus when a light shone from Heaven.   He hears a voice saying, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ Saul soon discovered that the voice belonged to Jesus, ‘I am Jesus, who you are persecuting.’ Saul, later known as Paul, underwent a significant and sincere change of heart and change of direction in his life.

Balaam too had a close encounter with God and yet he remained unchanged. Balaam in many ways did what God wanted him to do. It is one thing to say “yes” to God under compulsion; it is another to love the truth and desire submission to God’s revealed will.

In Exodus, we see another example of someone who grudgingly said “yes” to God. Pharaoh gave into God’s will several times out of discomfort with the plagues; but he never had a heart to do God’s will. He perished as an enemy of God as does Balaam (Num 31)

There are those who can come so close to the truth and still stay blind to it and reject it. The truth can set one free, yes, but it must be accepted followed by a commitment to the changes that the knowledge of the truth requires. Balaam loved money more than the truth. Even when the truth was staring him in the face, he chose to reject it.

Balaam’s actions and intentions

In this portion of scripture, we see Balaam speak only what God placed in his mouth, he was sensitive to the voice of God and could speak to him when he inquired of him. He had the Holy spirit come upon him, he spoke blessings on the God’s people and prophesied. When we look at all of this, in many ways he appears to be a prophet of God. But what does Jesus warn us in Mathew 7.

In Mathew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and, in your name, perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Balaam did not desire to do God’s will. What Balaam did in this instance, speaks not into Balaam’s surrender to God but was more the power and will of God that stood for His people than anything else. God may use various means to fulfill his purpose, but that does not automatically make right the person and all their ways. It is a reminder for us to not get caught up in what someone does but to always remember that it is God who does every good thing. The true state of someone’s heart is only known by God so we are to stay cautious in not allowing anyone have the power to lead us in wrongly interpreting the truth, or on taking sides because God can speak through unexpected sources. Our loyalty and priority should remain in being a true follower of Jesus. And that requires staying rooted in scripture and prayer. And seeking wisdom and discernment to know what is from God and not. When we are close to God, our spiritual temperature remains too hot for the enemy to grab a hold of us.   

God Bless.

21 thoughts on “The Book of Numbers – When God Speaks through Unexpected Sources

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  1. Mathew 7:21-23, always reminds me that God can see our hearts. He is not moved by outward appearances. Our actions must be rooted in love, obedience and truth. Outward actions can deceive people but God knows our true motives. As you say, we must stay rooted in scripture and prayer. And ask God for wisdom and discernment. This things keep us close to Him. Thank you Manu. 💐

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing this! I read this in my reading plan just the other day and I missed this important lesson. I appreciate your details and references here. It’s so true that we can miss what God is telling us or just ignore Him because of the state of heart and the reluctance to change.

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  3. Hi Manu, We can’t just echo God’s words; we need to embrace them with our hearts. We have to decide what is important to us; worldly things like money, prestige, power; or God’s will; and way.
    I liked the tie-in with Pharoh and Paul. I hadn’t considered it. Have a wonderful week! 💖💐🌺

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  4. I am doing a Bible study on 1 John with some women at this time, and what you say about getting close to the truth but remaining blind to it reminds me of what is spoken in 1 John about antichrists who go out from us, because of they were not antichrists, they would have remained with us. We be seeing more and more of this nowadays, it seems.

    On another note, I never thought about how Balaam fit the description for the passage in Matthew 7. I love how you are able to make these connections!

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  5. Motives are so important – and tricky! We can even fool ourselves. I pray daily that the Lord would purify my motives, and that I would stay faithful and finish well. One or two moments of being used by God is not enough. He must own our lives every day until we take our last breath. Thanks for the great lesson, Manu!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great Lesson, Manu.👏👏Always a well- developed and in-depth study. This stood out for me:
    “Balaam too had a close encounter with God and yet he remained unchanged.”
    Wow! May the Lord circumcise and soften our hearts with His Word to transform and change us forever!!💕

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Very true our loyalty and priority should remain in being a true follower of Jesus and this should be demonstrate in our complete obedience to his holy law. Not half obedience but complete because God is all knowing, he knows our hearts, he cannot be cheated.

    Liked by 1 person

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