Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this is not from yourselves it is a gift of God.
Read Ephesians 1:6-7, 2:5-9 We are accepted through God’s grace. You are saved through grace and not by any work that you may do. If you were saved by something that you did, then you could boast about it, and would not be glorifying God. So God used his grace as the only means of your being saved, so that you would recognize who your savior is, and give God the glory.
Read Numbers Chapter 22 thru Chapter 24 The story of Balaam. Take note of the fact that Balaam is not an Israelite/Hebrew. Balaam is a Sorcerer/Enchanter/Diviner who acknowledges that all of his gifts come from God, and tries to serve God, but doesn’t have a complete knowledge of God. He completely doesn’t understand God’s grace.
When Balak, King of the Moabites saw the Israelites who came out of the Egypt camping near his borders he felt panicked, and decided to call on the local Sorcerer (Balaam) to come and put a curse on the Israelites.
The first time Balak sends a group of men to get Balaam, Balaam sends them home after consulting with God. He tells them to tell Balak that he could only say what God would have him say, even if Balak offered his house full of silver.
Balak doesn’t take no for answer, and sends a more impressive group to see Balaam with an offer of great honor if he will just come and curse the Israelites. God tells Balaam he can go with this group to see Balak, but he must ONLY SAY WHAT GOD SAYS FOR HIM TO SAY AND NOTHING ELSE, so they sleep on it.
The next day Balaam sets out with the group. God knows what is in Balaam’s mind, that the Israelites will be cursed so he sends an angel to stop him from going. That is when Balaam beats his donkey three times, because the donkey keeps moving away as it sees an angel and Balaam doesn’t see it. The angel eventually shows up to where Balaam can see him. He tells Balaam that his donkey saved his life, that if the donkey had not turned aside, then he would have slain Balaam. So Balaam offers to go back home because he still doesn’t understand what he did wrong (which was to plan for what to say, as opposed to waiting for God’s words.)
The angel then warns Balaam to continue, but that he is only to say the words that God gives him to say. (Now this is where this story really starts to get pretty humorous as if it wasn’t enough to have the situation with the donkey.)
So Balaam meets Balak, and they sacrifice 7 Bullocks and Rams on 7 fires. Then Balaam consults with God, and returns to stand by Balak, then proceeds to attempt to curse Israel, but God changes the words into blessings for Israel.
Balak is mad of course, and says lets go someplace else and try this again. The 7 sacrifices happen two more times in two different places, and each time Balaam utters blessings as God tells him. Balak is extremely angry and tells Balaam that he blew it, that God took away the honors he was going to give him because he wouldn’t curse Israel. Balaam reminded Balak that he had told him he couldn’t say anything that God didn’t put in his mouth, even for a house full of silver. Then Balak told Balaam to go home.
Can’t you just picture the frustration of Balak? I can picture him stomping around and saying, “Wait just a minute! Why did you bless them! I’m going to go and get 7 more bulls and rams, and set up 7 more altars and this time you better get it right!!!” He was probably jumping up and down wanting to run Balaam through with the sword by the time he had done that the 3rd time! Balaam is totally between a rock and a hard place…his trust is in God because he knows that God will definitely kill him if he doesn’t say what God gives him to say, and he knows that Balak may decide to do kill him too. Ultimately Balaam recognizes God’s higher authority (being a seer) and subconsciously trusts that God will not let him be hurt by Balak.
There are several noteworthy things about this story:
1) Balaam was not Hebrew, he was a sorcerer/diviner/enchanter who acknowledged God for his gifts, and tried to serve God, but was doing so without understanding.
2) God used Balaam to bless Israel even though he was a heathen, and also used Balaam to prophesy the coming of Jesus in the phrase “A Star will come out of Jacob, a sceptre will rise out of Israel, he will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth….”
3) Balaam did not understand God’s grace even though it was active in his own life. He thought that he when God gave him permission to go to Balak that he was going to do as Balak asked. He was expecting that God would curse Israel. However, he received a lesson in God’s grace with his donkey and the angel, and again with the blessing of Israel.
4) Balaam acknowledged that God was supreme over any enchantment or divination that he himself could do. God was his acknowledged supreme power of the universe.
5) Balaam does not have a good end, despite having had this opportunity to draw closer to God he later chose to go up against God in a sneaky way. You can read about him being killed because he thought to circumvent God by trying to make God take his blessing away from Israel by sending Moabite women in to tempt the Hebrew men into fornication and idolatry. (Numbers 31:16 and Joshua 13:22 and Revelation 2:14) This teaches us about trying to go in through the back door to accomplish a goal that God has told you not to do. Balaam was clearly made to understand that God was blessing Israel, but he decided that maybe he could make God “unbless” Israel if he could just tempt them to do ungodly things! That was his downfall.
God promised Abram (Abraham) in Genesis 12:3 that he would bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him. That was part of God’s covenant with Abraham about him and his descendants. We as Christians are adopted in to this same blessing. That is what it means to be grafted onto the Vine. The Vine being Israel, and us Gentiles are those who are grafted. (Romans 11:11-31)
To put it more simply Luke 11:28 says: But He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
Balaam heard directly from God and did not in the end obey.