It is expected and somewhat normal that authors, when writing the biographies of individuals, attempt to present the subject’s life in its best light. Scripture on the other hand always gives an accurate and unbiased account of individuals and events. The Biblical record states the blessings of obedience to God’s Word or the negative consequences thereof. The prophets are revealed as spokesmen for God yet quite ordinary in real life.
There was Elisha, a farmer, Amos, a sheepherder, Isaiah, a nobleman, and Elijah, faithful and courageous at times, yet fearful when threatened by Jezebel. God reveals His faithfulness to provide, protect and embolden their message. Through it all we see the divine purposes of God being fulfilled, His power and even His humor.
Perhaps no better evidence of this is seen than in the life of Balaam, a prophet for hire. Moses records the fear of Moabites as the exodus generation of Jews approached the plains of Moab. “The Moabites said to the elders of Midian, "This horde is going to lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field." So Balak son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor, who was at Pethor, near the River, in his native land.
Balak said: "A people have come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me. Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the country. For I know that those you bless are blessed, and those you curse are cursed." The elders of Moab and Midian left, taking with them the fee for divination. When they came to Balaam, they told him what Balak had said” (Num 22:4-7 NIV).
The record of this event as recorded by Moses reveals the negotiations between Balaam and the princes of Moab. God knew the prophet’s heart, as well as all believers who pursue their own agenda. The Apostle Peter tells us that … “They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness” (2 Peter 2:15 NIV).
In the unfolding scenario of this prophet for hire, God interjects humor as a donkey talks with the prophet who was acting like a “donkey.” “When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat her with his staff. Then the LORD opened the donkey's mouth, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?" Balaam answered the donkey, "You have made a fool of me! If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now." The donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?" "No," he said” (Num 22:27-30 NIV).
God in His Sovereign purposes stifled the plans of this wayward prophet but the negative effects of Balaam in leading the people into idolatry plagued Israel for years to come. The grave consequences were such that six writers of Scripture refer to Balaam in their teachings. His life did not honor God. His waywardness cost him his life as he was counted among the dead in Israel’s battle against Midian. This prophet had forgotten the One he had been called to serve.
The Apostle Paul reminds those who have placed their faith in Christ as Savior … “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism” (Col 3:23-25 NIV).