Next month, my son will be nine. In February, my daughter will be four.
In order to motivate myself to lose the weight I gained during my pregnancies (I never lost all of the weight from my son, got pregnant with my daughter, added to my already fat frame, and didn’t lose all of the weight from my daughter either), I kept some of my sexy clothes that I had before (that got the stamp of approval from my husband). I used to love wearing jumpers. You know, those one-piece thingies? They used to look good on me when I had curves and a waistline. Not so much now.
As I have mentioned before, Dad’s death has motivated me to get better at all things, including taking care of myself. Mom and I have been going back to Jazzercise.
I thought I was going to DIE in class today.
Number one, I made the mistake of standing too close to the speaker, and quickly developed a headache. I took a break for a second, moved as far away from the speaker as possible, and forced myself to continue. I felt flippin’ AWFUL when the class was over–accomplished mentally, but physically AWFUL. I don’t know if I pushed myself too hard or what, but my old fat body didn’t appreciate it.
Well, I don’t appreciate my old fat body. I can laugh now that it is a little later in the day, but I was pretty ticked earlier. I used to be an athlete, for Pete’s sake! I was a softballer, basketball shot-caller! I NEVER had a problem with my weight! I had a high metabolism and was always active. I eat less now than I did before, yet the pounds don’t come off nearly as easily. As I was sitting there thinking about all the other women I know who have kids and just drop the pounds as fast as they push out the kid, and how I was going to suffer to get this fat off, I got angry. LOL!
I have rested myself a bit and feel somewhat better, but you know how in one of my posts I said there were certain questions I have that no one but God can answer? I think I mentioned that in relation to Dad’s death, but I have questions overall. I understand that Eve was wrong in the garden of Eden but my GOODNESS why did all that EXTRA come upon women????
THIRTY DOGGONE POUNDS of pure FAT for what??
Okay, okay. I guess it was worth it (smile).
As women have done for centuries, I just have to do what I have to do. The fat is going away on its own. I might have to adjust my workout–I think I went too hard too soon–but I’m definitely not going to quit. I have a goal. It’s not necessarily a particular weight, because I’ve always been a muscular person, never really thin–but I do want to be healthy and feel good about myself in my clothes. I hope to reward myself as I meet small milestones–maybe with a nice sweater every now or then or a pair of boots (hint to husband??). I like fall (or autumn, as some people say)–I like that it’s cold but not too cold to still go outside and enjoy yourselves. I like football season although I don’t watch much football. I like chili (is it just me or do fall and a hot bowl of chili and crackers go together like peanut butter and jelly?). I like fall clothing–sweaters, jeans and boots.
Now winter–I detest winter. I see no point to it. It is another thing I want to ask God about. Other than replenishing the water and offering the opportunity for the earth to rejuvenate itself in the spring, which I fully understand, I CANNOT stand Michigan winters. The blistering cold that just hangs in the air, the flu, the colds, the germs, the viruses, the flu, driving on sheets of ice, BLEEECCCCH.
But whether I like it or not it comes every year and I haven’t moved out of Michigan yet. Go figure. (shrugs)
My kids have gone to visit my mother-in-love, so while I have a minute, let me get to my favorite story in the book of Numbers, which begins in chapter twenty-two.
In this chapter, the old generation has died out and it is time for the new generation to make their second approach to the Promised Land. The Israelites are right at the border, but as we have seen in previous chapters, making their way in is not as easy as just walking through. Now, the Israelites are camped along the Jordan river across from Jericho.
Here we meet Balak, son of Zippor. He was the king of Moab, and he had heard of all the things Israel had done to the Amorites. Balak and the people of Moab were terrified and filled with dread at the thought of an encounter with the numerous Israelite nation: “The Moabites said to the elders of Midian, ‘This horde is going to lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field” (v. 4). I don’t think much explanation is needed as to what they meant by that. Basically, they knew they were toast, but it seems as though the people were wrong as to how the Israelites were so powerful. It wasn’t because there were a lot of them–it was because they had GOD with them. An army of one person with God is hundreds of times stronger than an army of many who are walking without God.
Balak sends a messenger to summon Balaam, son of Beor, a sorcerer. This is what Balak says:
“A people has come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me. Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed” (vv. 5-6).
Here is what I find interesting: This message costs money. The Bible says that the elders of Moab and Midian left to deliver this message to Balaam, taking with them “the fee for divination” (v. 7). It reminds me of a time I was in Ann Arbor at Domino’s Farms, waiting outside before going in for a job interview several years ago. A pair of beautiful Native American women came out, and I politely spoke to them. The older one told me, “You look like a red woman”. I’ve heard that before–something about my cheekbones and the sometimes reddish hue of my skin gives away that my grandmother may have had Native American blood in her (we are not sure because she was adopted as a baby). We got into a brief conversation, and when she found out what I was there for, she offered to pray for me.
As long as someone is praying in the name of Jesus I will always accept a prayer. But this was different. The woman told me, “Twenty-five dollars”.
Before you ask me if I’m serious, yes, I am serious. There I was waiting for a JOB interview–a JOB so I could make MONEY–and she was trying to CHARGE me $25 for a prayer.
Apparently the woman was completely unaware she was dealing with a very knowledgeable Christian warrior who knows that 1) although the idea of someone praying for me is nice and I know people do, and I appreciate it, I also have the option of praying for myself–therefore I didn’t need her $25 prayer when I can submit my own for free and 2) prayer is a privilege and no one should EVER charge anyone for a prayer!!!!!
Needless to say, she didn’t get a dime outta me. I told her thanks but no thanks–I can pray on my own for free.
If ever you run into someone who offers to do something spiritual for you like that for a fee, run IMMEDIATELY. Prayer cloths? Holy water from the Jordan river? A piece of Jesus’s shroud?? Special anointing oil??? BALONEY. You do not need that stuff. We who have accepted God’s Son can talk to Him! You don’t need anything special to approach God–just the right beliefs and the right attitude. God WANTS his children to converse with him. For free!
So that was a huge indicator right there that Balaam was an impostor. Think about the prophets of the Bible. They didn’t charge for their messages. Think about other people in the Bible, and how they had God-given gifts and didn’t charge anyone a dime for them. I’m not saying that certain people shouldn’t be paid for their time and talents when appropriate, but some things just aren’t right to charge for. I have an issue with pastors that charge exorbitant amounts, for people within their congregation even, for events that are really within their job description–weddings, funerals, premarital counseling, etc. For instance, some churches in this area where I live charge hundreds of dollars to couples who wish to marry there or for families to have funerals. I often wonder how they decided they needed that much money just to open the building. That is another reason I have so much respect for my pastor. He doesn’t charge anyone anything for weddings, funerals, etc.
It also seems that the requirement for a fee ruins one’s credibility. In later books of the Bible, we read of prophets and priests who base the subject of their message or what they will do for a person on how much money or what gifts they have received from the person requesting the message. The more money the person gave, the more positive the message they received. The priests wouldn’t perform their priestly duties for those who did not give the correct amount. This is shown in Micah 3:11: “Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they lean upon the LORD and say, ‘Is not the LORD among us? No disaster will come upon us”. The easiest way to identify a false teacher even now is through their relationship with money. If you find that they are highly materialistic, that may be an indicator of their true heart. One cannot serve two masters. A lot of people unfortunately choose money over God.
But back to the story.
The elders of Moab and Midian returned to Balak and informed him of what Balaam had said. Balaam had told the men to stay there with him for a night while he awaited an answer from the Lord.
Hmmm. So Balaam was awaiting an answer from the Lord. The same God of Israel? Could he really have been consulting God, or was he confusing God with some sort of demonic force?
In Sunday school several weeks ago, one of my kids asked why we’re not supposed to consult psychics or fortune-tellers, even for entertainment purposes, as we know that people like Miss Cleo (“Call me now for your free readin’!”) are super-fraudulent.
I can’t believe anyone fell for this.
Let’s not forget that demons can use people. Are you familiar with the story of Legion in the Gospel of Mark? It’s the story where Jesus meets a demon-possessed man. When asked his name, the man replies “My name is Legion, for we are many” (v.9). Jesus cast the demons out of the man and into a herd of about two thousand pigs who committed pig-icide and drown themselves.
So although a psychic may seem to have the answers at that time, if they actually do have that type of power, we should wonder where that ability came from. We can never forget that God has told us not to consult with diviners, so then why would he give people that gift? He wouldn’t. And why would any of us go to another person for answers when we have God who knows everything, ready and willing to listen to even our most intimate complaints and issues?
Anyway, let’s continue.
It gets even more interesting, though. This leads me to question Balaam even further. The Bible says that “God came to Balaam…” (v. 9). This leads me to believe that perhaps at one point, Balaam was given the gift of prophecy but was one of those people who became corrupted and used his gift for profit. We also know that God can use people to accomplish his will by any means necessary. Look back into Exodus, where God hardened Pharaoh’s heart when the Israelites were pleading to be let go from bondage. The response was the plagues and their eventual deliverance. We shall see.
God asks Balaam: “Who are these men with you?” (v. 9 again).
Balaam tells God the truth–that Balak, king of Moab, had sent him a message, asking him to come with them and put a curse upon Israel (another question: If Balaam is so great, why does he have to go with the elders? God’s omnipresence allows him to be everywhere all the time. If I am in Michigan praying for relatives in New Jersey or Japan (I have family in both places), he can hear me in Michigan and respond to my prayers according to his will on behalf of those relatives.
Anyhoo, God tells Balaam not to go with them, and not to put a curse on the people, because they have been blessed. The next morning, Balaam tells the officials that the Lord had refused to let him go with them. The Moabite officials return to Balak and inform him of Balaam’s decision, and then Balak sends other officials, “more numerous and more distinguished than the first” (v. 15). Interesting. Basically Balak brought out the big guns. These “more distinguished” officials have another message from Balak:
“This is what Balak son of Zippor says: ‘Do not let anything keep you from coming to me, because I will reward you handsomely and do whatever you say. Come and put a curse on these people for me'” (vv. 16-17).
Balaam still has some sense in him. I’ll bet his curiosity was piqued as to what a handsome reward from a king may have looked like, but he still sticks to his guns, kind of:
“Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God. Now spend the night here so that I can find out what else the Lord will tell me” (vv. 18-19).
Here’s the thing–the Lord has already told Balaam what he needs to know. He already said that the Israelites were blessed. Did he think God would be impressed by the more numerous, more distinguished officials and the handsome reward?
It kind of reminds me of something my kids do that annoys the stink out of me–ask for something several times after I’ve said no, hoping I’ll change my mind. I never do. When they keep at it it just angers me. It seems as though Balaam, getting seduced by the possibility of a handsome reward (which may have included quite a name for himself, if he was able to put a curse on the Israelites that would stop them, since it was obvious the reputation of the Israelites had people shaking in their boots), was hoping that God would change his mind.
This passage may make it seem as though God had changed his mind: He tells Balaam to go with the men, but “do only what I tell you” (v. 20).
This is the response Balaam was looking for. In the morning, Balaam gets up, saddles his donkey and heads off with the Moabite officials. God is angry with Balaam for going, and the angel of the Lord (it is thought that when the Bible says “an angel of the Lord” they are referring to an unnamed angel, but when it says “THE angel of the Lord” it is a reference to Jesus) stood in the road to oppose him, sword in hand. Balaam, on his donkey and accompanied by two servants, is oblivious. The donkey, however, is not. The donkey sees the angel of the Lord in front of them and knows better than to approach. The donkey turned off the road and headed into a field, but Balaam beat the donkey to get it back on the road.
Here is where reading with a couple of different translations is important. In the King James version, verse 20 says this:
“And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do” (italics added by me).
It is different in the NIV Bible:
“That night God came to Balaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”
Those words might make a huge difference.
I was confused when I first read this perplexing story. At one point it seems as though God had given Balaam permission to go. So why get angry when he went?
My humble opinions are as follows:
- Notice that it doesn’t say anywhere in the King James version (recall that I said a long time ago the KJV is the most accurate, but I use other translations for easier reading) that the men had come to call Balaam. It just says he got up and went with them. He had already been swayed by the idea of a handsome reward. Can you imagine what the men thought when Balaam readily approached them? They probably high-fived each other. I am sure that when Balaam came to them without them asking, that meant he was going to do as told and curse the Israelites.
- Perhaps God knew the condition of Balaam’s heart. Balaam was looking for that $$$$$$$. He wanted to go, and it was outside the will of God. Remember how the people kept asking for meat, and finally God gave it to them and it didn’t turn out so well? Maybe this is one of those situations. Sometimes God will allow us the desires of our selfish hearts in order that we may go through something and turn back to him. Could this have been a test for Balaam?
- Maybe God was letting Balaam go so he could show him exactly who had the power. Balaam apparently thought he truly did have the ability to curse people that God had already said were blessed. This angel of the Lord had a sword ready. Surely Balaam would see that whatever ability he had was no match for the true and living God.
Let us continue.
The angel of the Lord then stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, which had walls on both sides. Interestingly, the donkey is still the only one able to see the angel. Does this indicate that Balaam had become blinded in his pursuit of financial gain? He had just heard from the Lord in the verses before this, now he cannot see the angel? Either way it goes, the donkey pressed close to the wall, catching Balaam’s foot against it. In response, Balaam beats the donkey more (he really wants his handsome reward, doesn’t he?).
Now the angel of the Lord moves ahead and stands in a narrow place where there was no room to turn. With nowhere to go, the donkey lays down under Balaam. I’ll bet Balaam was furious. He beat the animal with his staff. The Lord opened the donkey’s mouth and allowed it to speak: “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” (v. 28).
(I wonder what the donkey’s voice sounded like. Donkey from Shrek? Nah. I doubt this donkey had an Eddie Murphy voice. But I am curious).
I am also curious as to how Balaam did not run away screaming when he heard the donkey speak. Incredulously, he talks back to the donkey like he was carrying on a conversation with another man, saying, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now” (v. 29).
The donkey asks Balaam a good question: Balaam has apparently been riding this donkey for years, and it has been a cooperative donkey, never stopping like that before. Basically, Balaam should have known something was terribly awry if his loyal, cooperative donkey was disobeying him. The Lord then opens Balaam’s eyes (so that answers that question–the Lord allowed Balaam to be temporarily blinded) and allows him to see the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. Balaam bowed low and fell facedown.
“The angel of the Lord asked him, ‘Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it” (vv. 32-33).
Balaam acknowledges his sin (although not specifically), and tells the angel of the Lord that he will turn back around if God is displeased. Now, the angel of the Lord tells Balaam that he can go with the men, but speak only what I tell you (that to me is another indicator that this angel is Jesus, because Jesus is God, and only God told the people what to say. Angels didn’t give prophets messages, God did).
So Balaam continues his journey with the Moabites. When Balak hears that Balaam was coming, he goes out to meet him at the edge of the Moabite town of Arnon on the edge of his territory. I’ll bet he was beaming from ear to ear–he just knew he had bought himself a good curse. However, Balak shows his impatience (and anxiety). He pretty much asks what took Balaam so long: “Did I not send you an urgent summons? Why didn’t you come to me? Am I not able to reward you?” (v. 35).
Ummmm… asking “why didn’t you come to me” is kind of a dumb question since Balaam was obviously in his presence, but again, this guy is probably nervous. And need we forget that in some cases, when someone gives someone something (money, a job, etc.) they think they own that person. Balaam responds by reminding Balak that he is there now, but he can’t say whatever he wants to say–he has to speak only what God puts in his mouth (like a prophet, right??).
Balaam goes with Balak to Kiriath Huzoth (whatever that is), where Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep (to whom were these sacrifices given?) and gave some of the offered animals to Balaam and the officials who had accompanied him. The next morning Balak takes Balaam up to Bamath Baal, which apparently was a high point where Balaam would have full view of the Israelite camp.
In chapter twenty-three Balaam gets his first message from the Lord and speaks it to Balak. He first has Balak build him seven altars, prepare seven bulls and seven rams, all of which Balak does. Balaam then instructs Balak to stay beside his offering as he waits for the message from the Lord. He says “Perhaps the Lord will come to meet with me. Whatever he reveals to me I will tell you” (v. 3).
God does in fact meet with Balaam, puts a word in his mouth, and when Balaam tells Balak what the Lord has said, I am sure Balak is ticked:
“Balak brought me from Aram, the king of Moab from the eastern mountains. ‘Come,’ he said, ‘curse Jacob for me; come, denounce Israel.’ How can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce those whom the Lord has not denounced? From the rocky peaks I see them, from the heights I view them. I see a people who live apart and do not consider themselves one of the nations. Who can count the dust of Jacob or number even a fourth of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and may my final end be like theirs!” (vv. 7-10).
Obviously this is not what Balak wants to hear, and he voices his displeasure: “What have you done to me? I brought you here to curse my enemies, but you have done nothing but bless them!” (v. 11).
Wrong. Balaam, just like every other man and woman on earth does not have the power to curse anyone. We can be a blessing in that we appeal to God on the behalf of someone else, but all good things come from God. Balak is super-misinformed. Balaam reminds him that his message comes from God: “Must I not speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?” (v. 12).
The problem remains today. People would rather hear a rosy, happy message that aligns with their way of living than the truth. SMH.
Balak is not willing to give up. He offers to take Balaam to another vantage point, and asks him again to curse the Israelites. He builds seven more altars, gives several more bulls and rams, and Balaam again tells Balak to stay beside his offering while he again consults with the Lord.
I have nothing against wealthy people as a whole, but I am sure we can think of wealthy people who think they can buy their way out of everything. Balak thought for seven more altars and bulls and rams he could get God to change his mind. What he didn’t understand was that although there was the possibility that Balaam could be swayed by the stuff and change his mind, God is not impressed with material stuff. He already owns it all.
God meets with Balaam again and gives him a word. It isn’t what Balak wants to hear, again:
“Arise, Balak, and listen; hear me, son of Zippor. God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot change it. “No misfortune is seen in Jacob, no misery observed in Israel. The Lord their God is with them; the shout of the King is among them. God brought them out of Egypt; they have the strength of a wild ox. There is no divination against Jacob, no evil omens against Israel. It will now be said of Jacob and of Israel, ‘See what God has done!’ The people rise like a lioness; they rouse themselves like a lion that does not rest till it devours its prey and drinks the blood of its victims.” (vv. 18-24).
Balak sees that his plan is not going so well, and he beseeches Balaam to neither bless nor curse the people. Balaam answers him again by reminding him that he has to do whatever the Lord says.
Sigh. Balak takes Balaam to a third destination, hoping Balak will curse the Israelites from there. I don’t know if he was trying to wear Balaam down with his persistence or what. I don’t quite understand what moving him from place to place was supposed to accomplish. This place overlooks the wasteland. Balaam tells Balak to build seven more altars and prepare seven more bulls and rams. Balak does as told.
That leads us to chapter twenty-four, where Balak’s intentions again backfire. Balaam sees that blessing Israel pleases the Lord and he turns his face toward the wilderness, putting away his divination. He sees Israel encamped tribe by tribe, and the Spirit of God comes upon him and speaks a third message:
“The prophecy of Balaam son of Beor, the prophecy of one whose eye sees clearly, the prophecy of one who hears the words of God, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:“How beautiful are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places, Israel! Like valleys they spread out, like gardens beside a river, like aloes planted by the Lord, like cedars beside the waters. Water will flow from their buckets; their seed will have abundant water. “Their king will be greater than Agag; their kingdom will be exalted. God brought them out of Egypt; they have the strength of a wild ox. They devour hostile nations and break their bones in pieces; with their arrows they pierce them. Like a lion they crouch and lie down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse them? May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!” (vv. 3-9).
I’ll bet smoke was coming out of Balak’s ears at that one. He is angry with Balak and tells him to leave, and that the Lord has cost him his reward. Balaam reminds Balak that he had told his messengers that no matter how much they gave him–even if it were all the silver and gold of the king’s palace–he could not go beyond the command of the Lord, AND that he has to say what the Lord tells him to say! Balaam will leave, but not before he is gracious enough to tell this Moabite king exactly what Israel will do to them. He provides Balak with four more messages. In the first, he seems to speak of the coming Messiah when he says “A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skills of all the people of Sheth” (v. 17). In his fifth message, Balaam sees Amalek and says that Amalek was first among the nations, but will see an end involving utter destruction. His sixth message is for the Kenites, who will be destroyed and taken captive by Ashur. Of course there is a seventh message, because seven is the number of completion, right? Balaam’s final message requires no explanation:
“Alas! Who can live when God does this? Ships will come from the shores of Cyprus; they will subdue Ashur and Eber, but they too will come to ruin” (vv. 23-24).
After this, Balaam goes home and Balak went his own way. Unfortunately, this is not the last we hear of Balaam. You would think he had learned his lesson after this encounter, but I am afraid he did not. We will see him again in Deuteronomy.
What can we conclude about Balaam and this story? I see Balaam as an opportunist, a snake oil salesman of sorts. Balaam seemed to be one of those people that had a gift that he abused, and probably, upon seeing how profitable his gift was, was dabbling in a bit of everything–he was not truly a servant of God. The very definition of his name is “destroyer”, and look at what his occupation was–to destroy people with curses. I wondered what made Balaam instruct Balak to build seven altars–was it also typical of pagan practices to build altars and offer sacrifices? Well, we know from historical records even other than the Bible that other religions did ritual sacrifices. Some still do. This explains why God had such specific instructions for Israelite sacrifice–so that theirs could be done CORRECTLY. Now, what was the purpose of Balaam’s offerings? To try to get God to give him the right to curse the people, so he could collect his reward? Or was Balaam really humbly submitting to God? I don’t think so, only because I know of his future actions.
God cannot be bribed or bought. And if God has decreed that something or someone is blessed, that’s what it is. You can’t curse what God has already blessed.
And my eyelids are closing. Good-night all.