The Way of Balaam

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There are false prophets who invite a spirit of divination into their lives.

The gift, which enables them to prophesy, comes directly from an evil spirit and has nothing to do with God. What is important to note is that although the word might be coming from a spirit of divination, it can still be accurate! Acts 16:16-18 illustrates this through a false prophetess with the right word, but the wrong spirit. She accurately prophesied that the apostles were men of God. That was until Paul cast out her demon because he recognized the source was not of God. Therefore, a true prophet [anyone who claims to speak for God] is not determined strictly upon the accuracy of the prophecy.

Then then is another type of prophet that is recorded for us in the story of Balaam in Numbers 22-25 that has much relevance for the Church today. New Testament writers refer to him in three separate passages that always contain a sober warning to us all. Many Christians believe Balaam was a false prophet, not because his prophecies were false, but because Scripture refers to him as a ‘sorceror or soothsayer.’

In fact, Balaam was a well-known prophet with a far-reaching clientele who had a reputation for getting results. He was a true prophet who fell away from God when he became motivated by greed and came up with a plan for Moabite women to entice the Israelites into idolatry and sexual immorality (2 Peter 2:14-16 and Revelation 2:14). He was a hireling who succumbed to the love of money, and was willing to align himself against God for the financial reward Balak, the pagan King of Moab, offered him. [2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11]

Here is what is frightening about all this. While Balaam had an outward façade of spirituality, his heart was in rebellion, and yet he continued to be used by God in the gift of prophecy. Numbers 24:2 says “And Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel encamped according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him.” Only God can initiate genuine prophecy and Balaam’s gift appears to have remained intact. He was able to prophesy ‘thus says the Lord’ and operate under a true Godly anointing. Why is this? Well, one reason is because the Bible says, “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29) This means that God does not withdraw His gifts once they are given. This explains why false prophets can operate in the spiritual gifts and people can continue to receive miracles from ministers who are outwardly righteous, but inwardly corrupt. God does not save, heal and deliver people because of the prophet’s righteousness, but because of His great mercy and grace. It’s not to the credit of the man, but to the credit of God who honors His Word and loves His people.

Scripture says many will say to Jesus, “…. ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonderful works in Your name?’ But then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from Me, you who practice evil.” (Matthew 7:21-23)

According to Jesus, it is possible for someone to be on their way to eternal destruction, but still do great miracles in His Name. He calls them ‘evil’ because they have veered away from His will and purposes, yet when they use His name, they prophesy, cast out demons and perform miracles. Jesus never denies they perform supernatural signs; He never says they are operating by the power of another spirit. They used gifts received according to their own desires, and not by the leading of the Holy Spirit. The problem is not in their gifts, the problem is their willful sin. For this reason, we should never use miracles, alone, as a way to identify a true man and woman of God.

The prophet Balaam was a Gentile believer who knew God by His sacred covenant name and called Him ‘my God’ [Numbers 22:18]. God revealed himself to Balaam and spoke directly to him. Balaam was willing to risk his life and incur Balak’s wrath by continually reminding him that he could only speak the words God gave him to speak. Balaam offered sacrifices to the Lord, not to Baal or pagan gods, and inquired as to what was God’s will. Scripture says the Holy Spirit came upon Balaam to such an extent that he saw visions of God with his eyes wide open (Numbers 24:4). When he saw the angel of the Lord, he recognized his guilt and acknowledged his sin, and went so far as to ask that he be allowed to die the death of the righteous.

Numbers 24:2 says “And Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel encamped according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him.” God speaks through Balaam and gives him four glorious Messianic prophecies concerning the coming of Christ Jesus. Balaam began as a true prophet of God, evidenced by his anointing and the gift of prophecy. He was an internationally renowned prophet who scholars believe came from a long line of ‘diviners or soothsayers.’ At some point Balaam was led astray by practicing divination contrary to the Law of God; he began to mix the knowledge of the true God with forbidden techniques of sorcery and divination to curse or bless people for financial gain. At times Balaam prophesied by sorcery, and other times by the Spirit of God, yet as unrighteous as he was, his prophetic gift remained intact and his prophecies were accurate.

He was a wicked, unfaithful prophet, who was motivated by lust for prominence, influence and wealth, and willing to compromise in an attempt to be friends with both God and the world. Balaam was willing to prostitute the spiritual gifts because he loved money more than he loved God. It was his greed that led him to betray God and ensnare God’s people in idolatry and sexual immorality. The punishment for his sin was death. Balaam did not die the death of the righteous, because he didn’t lead the life of the righteous. He died in a state of open rebellion and apostasy at the hands of the Israelite army.

Peter warned against ‘the way of Balaam’ in 2 Peter 2:15 and compares false teachers, ‘accursed children who have FORSAKEN THE RIGHT WAY AND GONE ASTRAY,’ to Balaam who was led astray from the right way because he “loved the wages of unrighteousness.” Jude warns against ‘the error of Balaam’ and describes Balaam as one who disobeyed God in order to benefit himself financially (Jude 11). Finally, Jesus speaks of ‘the doctrine of Balaam’ when He warns the church in Pergamum of their sin: “There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality” (Revelation 2:14).

Balaam’s “way” is being willing to disregard the Word of God for the idol of money and greed; it’s teaching and deceiving God’s people into believing they have license to sin without fear of God’s judgment. Balaam stands as an example for today’s Christians who are led astray by those in ministry with a similar combination of spiritual gifts and corrupt teachings and character. At times they prophesy by the spirit of sorcery, and at times they prophesy by the Spirit of God.

Just as Balaam was a stumbling block to Israel, the spirit of Balaam today operates as a stumbling block to the Church causing the truth of the glorious gospel of Jesus to be blasphemed in the world. The Church today is filled with presumptuous so-called ‘prophets’ who have followed the ‘way of Balaam” by offering spiritual blessings for money, enticing the gullible and unlearned to give ‘seed-faith’ offerings in exchange for health and wealth, for the sole purpose of building their own empires of fame and sustaining their affluent lifestyles. Like Balaam they are ‘ravenous wolves’ cloaked with a thin veneer of religious respectability.

We’ve become so accustomed to associating false prophets and false teachers with lying that it’s become almost impossible to believe that they could ever speak truth. That’s what makes them so dangerous; it’s often difficult to recognize them as they masquerade as an angel of light, and work under two spheres of spiritual power, the demonic and the Godly. We cannot assume that every gift and spiritual anointing is necessarily of God. Saul prophesied after God had rejected him (1 Sam. 19:23-24). Caiaphas prophesied accurately about Jesus while organizing the plot to arrest and kill Him (John 11:49-52).

Just because men possess powerful supernatural gifts doesn’t mean that the person is approved by God. God spoke through Balaam’s donkey; did that make the donkey an anointed prophet? We must be thoroughly familiar with the truth to be able to recognize the counterfeit. Satan can be a skillful imitator. Christians must “test the spirits” to determine if they originate with the Holy Spirit or with a demonic spirit.

Claire Carradice

Claire Carradice is the founder of Reset Exchange, a resource that helps people reset their minds in order to experience the fullness of life and the wonder of God.

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