Last week I was reading in Numbers, and a certain passage stood out to me. This passage is found in the story of Balak and Balaam. King Balak had asked the false prophet Balaam to curse Israel. Through the process, God grabs Balaam’s heart and Balaam refuses to submit to Balak’s request. As a result, we read the following:
And Balak’s anger was kindled against Balaam, and he struck his hands together. And Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have blessed them these three times. Therefore now flee to your own place. I said, ‘I will certainly honor you,’ but the LORD has held you back from honor.” (Numbers 24:10-11 ESV)
As I’ve thought about this passage over the past few days, I’m reminded that non-Christians may often say to Christians, “The LORD has held you back from honor.” When Christians have opportunities to sinfully make a quick buck or to indulge in an age-old dream that would draw them away from God, people (even our own flesh) might say, “The LORD has held you back from honor.” These are words that, at the heart, are as old as the first temptation itself. Think back to the serpent’s conversation with Eve in Genesis 3. He tries to get Eve to believe that God is withholding some greater blessing. Eve takes the bait. She sins. She realizes the dire circumstances into which she ran. Balak is assuming and sharing that same lie, but Balaam rejects it when he says, “Did I not tell your messengers whom you sent to me, ‘If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the LORD, to do either good or bad of my own will. What the LORD speaks, that will I speak’? (Numbers 24:12b-13 ESV).
Balaam realizes something profound. God’s word and way is worth more than a house filled with silver and gold. To put it another way, “
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36 ESV)
. . . whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. (Mark 8:35b ESV)
Anyone who surrenders to Christ will find true gain, and the gospel enables us to see this clearly. Ultimately, while Balaam’s example is nice, it’s not his example that will fuel us the rest of our days. (Keep in mind that Balaam's own experience did not maintain himself.) Christ’s sacrificial life, death and intercession will fuel us. Do you remember what the people said to Jesus while he was on the cross?
He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
(Matthew 27:43 ESV)
The accusation towards Jesus is very similar to that of Balak’s statement. In essence they said, “God probably does not care for you.” As Christians, we know otherwise. The Scriptures say, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus despised the shame of the cross yet he looked forward to the greater joy that was ahead of him – sitting at the right hand of the throne of God!
If you find yourself right now feeling weak, look to Christ. The next time your flesh or somebody else says that God is holding you back, remember that he died to set you free. Trust him and look forward to the hope that is set before you. Then, you can say with the other saints through the ages that God is your treasure and you wouldn’t trade him for all the riches of this world!