“Woe to them . . . they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error.” (Jude 11 NIV)
Every time I read the story of Balaam it reminds me of the grave danger in insisting on my own way with God. He might give in to me but it may not be His perfect will. There are different measures of “God’s will.” There is the “good, pleasing and perfect will of God,” which of course all Christ followers are encouraged to pursue. (Romans 12:2) But there is also the permissive will of God with its variations which would be best to avoid.
I have learned this the hard way, and so in some measure can understand Balaam’s plight. On several occasions in my life I have committed to doing something I thought was God’s will only to find in the end it was really religious self-deception and fueled by a stubborn pursuit of my own desires. Even though I “prayed” about it and asked for God’s “perfect” will, my heart was so set on what I wanted that God gave me His “permissive” will instead and off I went to do my own thing.
Those decisions led to some very painful experiences. Through them I have learned more about God’s ways. Most importantly I have realized the necessity of checking the motivations of my heart as I seek His will. The clarity with which a person can discover God’s will for their life is directly proportional to their commitment to doing what He reveals. Nobody says this more clearly than Jesus. “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God.” (John 7:17 ESV)
The study of the false prophet Balaam illustrates this important lesson for everyone who genuinely wants to hear God’s voice and do His will. It pulls back the covers on hypocritical prayers desiring God’s will, and reveals a religious veneer covering up a stubborn heart that really wants its own will.