Warning to a Would-Be Balaam
In this, the final part of this series, we see that William Gurnall provides a word of caution to any would-be Balaams lingering among his readership. If you recall, Balaam was a prophet—ostensibly a genuine prophet of God—who was subsequently hired by the wicked king Balak to curse Moses and the Israelites. But Balak erred in that he attributed the power to bless or curse to man and not to God. Addressing Balaam, he said,
Now, therefore, please come, curse this people for me since they are too mighty for me; perhaps I may be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.” (Numbers 22:6)
At this point, Balaam rightly went to God for direction—direction that God succinctly provided.
God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” (Numbers 22:12)
The rest is a fascinating account filled with some of the most incredible oddities of the Old Testament. Though I don’t have the time to devote to it here, I encourage you to read it for yourself in Numbers 22-24. Additional resources can be found at First Presbyterian Church's website.
The long and short of it is that Balaam cursed those whom God had specifically blessed. Having been warned against cursing Israel once, Balaam pressed the issue to his own hurt.
Interestingly, the New Testament has bit to say about Balaam, specifically the “way of Balaam” (2 Peter 2:15), the “error of Balaam” (Jude 11), and the “teaching of Balaam” (Revelation 2:14). This, too, would make for a fascinating study.
Continuing on with Gurnall, I want to close with three of his additional points: a word to saints, a word to “poor wretches”, and a word to the wicked.
A Word to Saints Concerning the Imprecations of Others
First, Matter of comfort to the saints against those direful imprecations which the wicked world throweth out against them… But fear not thou, who art a saint, their imprecations; this is but like false fire in the pan of an uncharged gun, it gives a crack, but hurts not; God’s blessing will cover thee from their curse: ‘Let them curse, but bless thou,’ Psa. 109:28. When the viper flew out of the fire upon Paul’s hand, the barbarians expected that he should drop down dead, but it proved no such matter. Thus the enemies of God and his people have expected, one generation after another, that the church, which hath been always laden with their curses, should perish under them, but it lives yet to walk over all their graves.
What is Your Imprecation Worth?
Alas! poor wretches, what is your imprecation worth? Truly, as your blessing can do no good, neither can your curse do any harm, till you can get God to set his seal, and say amen to it. Did our Saviour so sharply rebuke the rash request of his disciples, calling for fire to fall on those whom they thought deserved it:—and will he gratify the lust of your devilish fury against his own dear people, by pouring on them what you blasphemously desire of him? Will nothing serve you but to have God execute those whom you condemn; and those, his dear children, for nought else, but because they dare not be as wicked as yourselves? How was God courted by Balak and Balaam with altar after altar, from place to place, but all to no purpose; Deut. 23:5, ‘Nevertheless the Lord thy God would not hearken unto Balaam, but the Lord thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because the Lord thy God loved thee.’
A Word to the Wicked
Secondly, A word to the wicked. Take heed, that by your implacable hatred to the truth and church of God, you do not engage her prayers against you. The imprecatory prayers of the saints, when shot at the right mark, are murdering pieces, and strike dead where they light. ‘Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you he will avenge them speedily,’ Luke 18:7, 8. They are not empty words, as the imprecations of the wicked poured into the air, and vanish with their breath, but are received into heaven, and shall be sent back with thunder and lightning upon the wicked. David’s prayer unravelled Ahithophel’s fine-spun policy, and twisted his halter for him. The prayers of the saints are more to be feared than an army of twenty thousand men in the field. Esther’s fast hastened Haman’s ruin, and Hezekiah’s prayer against Sennacherib, brought his huge host to the slaughter.