Sometimes, I get these tiny glimpses of God and see, once again, just how far removed He is from our human nature. I find Him acting in ways that are totally contrary to how I would act, and I’m in awe all over again! There was another such wonderful glimpse for me in this chapter. Balaam is still blessing Israel. By the time this chapter is over, he will have handed out seven blessings — ah, such a Biblical number!
But something interesting struck me in the first verse: "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." To me, it was clear from this verse that Balaam was far from being the ideal choice for a prophet of God. From the story, we know that Balaam obviously knew about the Lord and was able to communicate with Him on some level, but the revelation that he also practiced divination (something God did not like) gives us a clue that Balaam wasn’t an esteemed prophet of God.
And that’s why it floored me to realize that one of the most beautiful prophecies about Jesus Christ — God Himself! — actually came out of Balaam’s mouth! There it is, right in the midst of his fourth message: "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel." (vs 17) This is one of the very first direct references in the Bible to Christ’s coming. What a privilege Balaam had in delivering it!
And it just made me admire God all the more for giving it to him. I mean, if you’re going to begin announcing the most important event in the history of the world, wouldn’t you want to give that honor to a loyal friend? And yet, here’s Balaam, the greedy prophet who resorts to divination when it suits him, delivering the message.
The point? God is not some elitist snob who only blesses those who bless Him. He lets us in on the important stuff even if we haven’t been completely faithful to Him. Though Balaam was far from perfect, God included him in the circle of those who were privileged to announce the coming of Christ. He is always looking to draw us in, not keep us out!