Was Balaam Converted?

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 9
In the Christian Friend and Instructor of last year, p. 269, we read, "As with Balaam so with Job, there were those outside the immediate circle of Abraham's family who knew and worshipped the Almighty." Again, p. 283, we read, "In the world outside God used an unconverted Balaam," This is an apparent contradiction. But it is clear from Rom. 1:2121Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Romans 1:21), &c., that a certain knowledge of God may exist apart from conversion or the working of divine life in the soul. Balaam, speaking in Num. 24:1616He hath said, which heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the most High, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: (Numbers 24:16), speaks there, I judge, more of what he had learned of God since being invited to come to Balak than of any of his previous knowledge of Him gained in Pethor; and for these reasons it is apparent that Balaam's character as a soothsayer or diviner was well known. Balak, when he first sent to him to come and curse Israel, sent his messengers "with the rewards of divination in their hands." (Num. 22:77And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and they came unto Balaam, and spake unto him the words of Balak. (Numbers 22:7)) Also, there was no knowledge of God's ways with Israel, His people, in Balaam's mind at the moment. God forbade him to go, and says the people are blessed; then allowed him to have his way (for he loved the wages of unrighteousness, says the apostle Peter); then stood in the way as his adversary, with a sword drawn to kill him, forcing thus from the prophet the cry, " I have sinned." When come to Balak he does say, for God had already warned him, "Peradventure the Lord will meet me " (23: 3); but there is evident doubt about it in his mind, and the second time he does not say whom he goes to meet. (23: 15) In ch. 24: 1, the Spirit records that " he went not, as at other times, to seek for (or to meet) enchantments," including in "other times" his two former efforts. All this shows, I think, clearly that there was another power than that of Jehovah which was influencing his mind at this moment, though it is also clear that he knew this power to be impotent against God. His language in 23: 23, " Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel," would indicate two things-the futility of his efforts, and also what he had learned in the hands of God. Farther, soothsayers, and those who use divination, are an abomination to the Lord (Deut. 28:10-1410And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the Lord; and they shall be afraid of thee. 11And the Lord shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers to give thee. 12The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. 13And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them: 14And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. (Deuteronomy 28:10‑14); Lev. 20:6,276And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people. (Leviticus 20:6)
27A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20:27)
); and this is Balaam's description in Josh. 13:2222Balaam also the son of Beor, the soothsayer, did the children of Israel slay with the sword among them that were slain by them. (Joshua 13:22), "Balaam the soothsayer." When he came to Balak, Balak took him at once to the high places of Baal (22: 41), and it was there that Balaam proposes, " Build me here seven altars " (notice the words " me " and " here "). There they unitedly offered their sacrifices. (Chapter 23:2) Can we suppose this to be the action of a prophet of Jehovah? Then Balaam's own words, as, in " the vision of God," he pondered the blessed end of His people, were, " Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his. (23: 10) Again, "I shall see Him, but not now: I shall behold Him, but not nigh." (24: 17) They remind one of Luke 16:2323And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (Luke 16:23), and Rev. 1:77Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. (Revelation 1:7), and imply anything but a heart then at perfect rest with God. The words Balaam "rose up and went and returned to his place" (24: 25), too, are very suggestive, where he perished as a soothsayer among the Lord's enemies, at the hands of His people (Josh. 13:2222Balaam also the son of Beor, the soothsayer, did the children of Israel slay with the sword among them that were slain by them. (Joshua 13:22)), who were Commanded to cut off all such as an abomination in His eyes.
Finally, as to Balaam worshipping Jehovah, as another has said, we must not confound Christian worship to-day with the worship of God in the past, nor with what will be found on earth again in the future. The hour "now is" when the true worshippers worship the Father, and when they that worship God must worship Him in spirit and in truth. (John 4) None can worship now save those who worship thus, and in order to it there must be divine life in the soul; but this was not a necessity in the past. Thus we see that all Judah and Jerusalem worshipped the Lord. (2 Chron. 20:1818And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the Lord, worshipping the Lord. (2 Chronicles 20:18)) Were they all converted? Saul worshipped the Lord. (1 Sam. 15:25,3125Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord. (1 Samuel 15:25)
31So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the Lord. (1 Samuel 15:31)
) Nor will conversion be a necessity in the future. Men in the millennium will worship Him, and yet be unconverted. (Psa. 22:27-2927All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. 28For the kingdom is the Lord's: and he is the governor among the nations. 29All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul. (Psalm 22:27‑29); and Zech. 19: 16. See also Jer. 26:2-62Thus saith the Lord; Stand in the court of the Lord's house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the Lord's house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word: 3If so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings. 4And thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord; If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you, 5To hearken to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I sent unto you, both rising up early, and sending them, but ye have not hearkened; 6Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth. (Jeremiah 26:2‑6); and Zeph. 2:1111The Lord will be terrible unto them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen. (Zephaniah 2:11))
H. C. A.
I AM standing with the open grave of Christ behind me-just risen out of it with Him, my eye fixed on Him before me, darting forward to the glory, waiting for Him to come.
G. V. W.