Lesson Thirty Six
BALAAM, THE GREEDY PROPHET
Back in Lesson 26, I introduced a TED Talk by promoter Simon Sinek. He developed three words—What, How, Why—into a marketing concept. He arranged them into a “Golden Circle,” where the center circle is “why,” the middle is “how,” and the outer circle is “what.” These three circles moving from the outside circle to the innermost circle represent Sinek’s theory on how people think. First, they ask “What?” followed by “How?” and finally “Why?” Sinek’s point is that inspiring leaders or organizations think, act, and communicate differently—that is, upside down or inside out. Successful leaders begin with “Why?”
Successful leaders begin with “Why?”
Let’s look at Balaam and Balak. Together they look at the “what,” they develop the “how,” but they never reason the “why.” What they wanted to do was rid the earth of Israelites. How to do it, rested in cursing them. Never once do they wonder about “why” the Israelites are there in the first place. After Balak’s frustration and Balaam’s ambivalence, God gives Balaam one last prophecy and in it, He reveals the why: I love them. I want to spend eternity with them. I have a plan.
Applying this concept to God and spiritual things becomes an eye-opening experience. Throughout scripture, God, from a human perspective, is an upside-down communicator. Think about Jesus and His disciples. During most of His ministry, the disciples are scratching their heads. They’d ask a question (what or how) and He’d answer (why). Nicodemus asks Jesus what and how—Jesus answers why (John 3:16). The woman at the well asks what, Jesus answers why (John 4:26). On the road to Emmaus Jesus reveals the “why” throughout scripture—I created you. I love you. I want to be with you forever. The “how” is sending His Son to die for you. The “what” becomes easy—living with Him for eternity. The excited disciples run all the way back to Jerusalem. When you understand the “why,” hearts and perspectives are transformed. Upside-down thinking changes the world.
When you understand “why,” hearts and perspectives are transformed.
When the Bible is read with an upside-down approach, it changes everything you might have thought about God. The “why” of God is found in Genesis through to Revelation. The message is about saving us because He loves us. And when we grasp that, we are moved to tell others and inspired to change the world. And, I might add, we are renewed.
Balaam seems an unlikely prophet for God to use in such a mighty way. His words of the coming Messiah echo down through history. “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near . . .” Balaam ends his life as a wicked man. It is because of Balaam that Israel commits another great sin before God (Numbers 31:6). He returns to Moab, offering the suggestion to the king that the way to get Israel to sin is through sexual temptation. The men of Israel not only are seduced, but they also worship the gods of Moab. Later, Balaam is killed along with the kings of Midian (Numbers 31:8) Balaam may be allowed to see Jesus whose coming he foretold, but if he does, it will not be in wonderful expectation, but in hopelessness and fear for he did not listen to the voice of God, but to the temptation of wealth, pride, and power.
Making it Real
This idea of upside-down thinking takes a bit of time to grasp. Asking “why” isn’t where we typically go first. As you read your Bible during your daily devotionals this week, practice applying this concept. Don’t ask what God is saying or how He is saying it, ask yourself why? After you have figured out the answer, then follow with discovering the how and what. You will be amazed at how differently your Bible reads.
Respond & Share
How do you distinguish between the voice of God and that of the tempter? Share with us in the comments!
Merle Poirier writes from Silver Spring, Maryland, where she works as the operation manager for Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines as well as the designer for KidsView, a magazine for 8-12-year-olds. She enjoys spending time with her family including being the grandmother of two active little boys, who greatly enjoy Starting With Jesus.
Coming next week:
“THE PROMISED LAND AT LAST”