Intentions of the Heart

Leah DiPascal

Day: 22 | Plan: Numbers

Today's Reading: Numbers 22

Numbers 22:31 (NIV) “Then the LORD opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.”

After surviving the poisonous snake incident and victoriously occupying the territory of the Amorites, the people of Israel traveled into the plains of Moab and camped on the east side of the Jordan River, across from Jericho.

When Balak, the Moabite king, got a glimpse of their expansive army, he was terrified. Balak knew Israel was too powerful to defeat through military means so he sent messengers to Balaam, a sorcerer who was famous for divinations. (Numbers 22:5b-6)

Balak offered to pay a hefty fee to Balaam if he was willing to curse the Israelites. But when the messengers presented the request, Balaam told them he would have to determine the will of the Lord. (Numbers 22:8)

It seems like a noble response coming from a pagan sorcerer, right? Here’s the thing … Balaam believed there were many gods with great power. He was simply attempting to contact Israel’s God to gain access and power for this requested curse, a curse with a financial benefit for Balaam.

God appeared to Balaam and told him not to curse the Israelites, because they were a blessed people. So Balaam followed God’s instructions and when King Balak found out, he sent more distinguished officials with a sweeter offer of handsome rewards. (Numbers 22:16-17)

Balaam inquired of the Lord again and this time God granted his request. God had no intention of cursing the Israelites, but was sending Balaam to Moab in order to reveal Himself gloriously through Balaam.

It may have appeared that Balaam was obeying God, but the Lord knew Balaam’s true motives and wicked intentions. Balaam’s love for the wages of wickedness was completely against God’s will and made Him angry. (2 Peter 2:15)

As Balaam was traveling to Moab on his donkey, the angel of the Lord appeared with a drawn sword. Balaam couldn’t see the angel, but the donkey did. Three times the angel of the Lord blocked the pathway and each time the donkey responded. (Numbers 22:23, 25, 27).

Infuriated and belittled, Balaam beat the donkey three times, then the angel of the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth and the most unusual conversation began!

Balaam’s eyes were opened and the angel rebuked him for accepting such a reckless assignment, while stating that the donkey saved his life. Balaam’s previous encounters and responses to the Lord seemed casual, but this time Balaam reacted differently.

1. He bowed low and fell facedown to the ground. (Numbers 22:31)

2. He verbally confessed his sins. (Numbers 22:34)

3. He agreed to do what would please the Lord. (Numbers 22:34)

Balaam may have believed in many gods, but he was in the middle of a divine appointment with the one true God. All-powerful. All knowing. Forever reigning Yahweh over Israel. By the time of his meeting with Balak, Balaam had apparently learned his lesson: “I can’t say whatever I please. I must speak only what God puts in my mouth” (Numbers 22:38). Sadly, this does not stop him from later acting as Israel’s enemy. (Numbers 31:15-16)

Balaam was a man ready to obey God’s command as long as he could profit from doing so. Although he encountered the almighty power and presence of God, his heart was still occupied with the wealth he could potentially gain. This mixture of motives would eventually lead to Balaam’s demise.

Let’s learn from Balaam’s mistakes by realizing that wrong internal motives can’t be hidden from God. Self-satisfying intentions will eventually come to the surface through words and actions. And the love of money isn’t the key to success—it’s the root of all evil. (1 Timothy 6:10) Today’s lesson teaches us that God will use whatever means necessary to get our attention.

Our decisions should be based on what will honor God, not what we think will make us financially prosperous or successful. Balaam’s motives were centered on himself. As believers, let our motives be centered on God’s will.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, You know my heart and sometimes my motives can be selfish or self-seeking. I can easily focus on what pleases me, instead of what honors You. Shape my thoughts and intentions so that they line up according to Your will. Thank You for loving me and extending grace in every area of my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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