7 Guides for Biblical Preaching from Balaam

For his decades of obedience, Moses was called the most humble man in the world (Num. 12:3). Three chapters record the story of Balaam in the middle of Moses’ life so that we can see the difference between the two men. Yet Numbers 22-24 has memorable wisdom for a Biblical preacher.

Balaam is the man who was hired by Moab’s king, Balak to curse Israel just a few months before they enter the promised land. Hired? Balaam never actually curses Israel, and so he does not get his pay for cursing. Three times in a row from different mountains, he blesses Israel according to God’s Word after the Angel of the Lord opens the donkey’s mouth.

1. Preaching is faithfully conveying God’s Words and intentions.

“I will bring you word again, as the Lord shall speak unto me” (Num. 22:8). “I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more” (Num. 22:18). “The word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak” (Num. 22:38).

In the content or essence of the message invention is not needed or wanted. Balak needs to hear God’s message undiluted and unaltered. For this reason, preachers must spend significant time in reading, questioning, memorizing, and praying from the actual words of Scripture. As we have a book group discussion once per week now through Isaac Watts’ Logic, I am reminded again how the study of clear thinking and definitions will help the preacher to discover the substance and truth of the words God has given.

2. Neither money nor men may move the message.

King Balak promises Prophet Balaam honor and money (Num. 22:17-18), and Balaam knows the value of the offer. Biblical preaching does not sway to the left or right based on the promises or threats of powerful politicians or the hope of more tithers. Whether the Cultural Marxists threaten to block you from FaceBook or to sue you, the message of Biblical preaching still rebukes feminists, homosexuals, money lovers, those who divorce the wives of their youth, Muslims, Catholics, and liberal protestants.

3. Faithful preachers should expect the Divine Spirit to help their preaching.

“The Spirit of God came upon him [Balaam]” (Num. 24:2). We ought to expect the Spirit to be present changing those who listen to us. Goats ought to be transformed, and the sheep ought to follow the Shepherd more closely. Lack of conversions should weigh on our souls as preachers, and we must not be content with a counterfeit “sinner’s prayer” when we want nothing less than New Life!

4. Everyone should know what kind of preaching a preacher does.

Seven times Balaam tells Balak, “Told not I thee saying, ‘All that the Lord speaketh, that I must do?’” Our posture of absolute submission to God and His Word should anger, but not surprise. It should be clear in our website, and the scent should reach any visitor almost before the service. How else will they fall on their faces and say that God is truly present (1 Cor. 15:25)?

5. Biblical preaching deals with God and His people.

Balaam blessed Israel 4 times—twice in 23 and twice in 24. Each time, he speaks of God’s mercy and grace to His people, the nation of Israel. His message is not only angering to Balak, but it is largely irrelevant to him. The only way Balak could apply God’s Word to his own situation is if he realized that he was entirely separate from this blessed nation, and then with all his heart he sought to enter Israel in complete submission to Jehovah. The Word of God was otherwise not concerned with this mere king who controlled thousands of people and hordes of wealth.

6. The world will try to manipulate the preacher to produce a worldly message.

King Balak is remarkably persistent. He sends the highest elders of his nation (22:15). He offers 21 bulls and 21 rams. He takes him to three different mountains. He stays with Balaam for multiple days. He tempts Balaam repeatedly with worldly honors and wealth.

The spirit of this age, the god of this world will offer large audiences and a million views to any man who will be willing to deviate from God’s revelation.

7. A man who has once been a faithful preacher may yet fall terribly.

In Numbers 31 it is revealed that Balaam was killed by Israel for his ongoing relationship with Balak. The NT records Balaam’s name in 3 different books as an example of false teachers who claim to be Christian. They do some good things. They preach some good sermons. But secretly they loved the world. With these cross references, we see what Balaam’s heart was really like all along. He was not glad or eager to exalt the Word of God. Why did Balak stay with him for 3 successive blessings? The pagan king had reason to believe that this man would change at any moment. And sure enough the next story shows that Balaam did eventually give Balak what he wanted.

A good sermon may hide an evil serpent. One honest statement of truth may open the door for deceitful lies.

If women are to be saved by a life submitted to God’s design for them in motherhood (1 Tim. 2:15), then is it any surprise when pastors are saved not by one good sermon, but by preaching that continues in true doctrine (1 Tim. 4:16)?

Thank you, Father, for giving us this gripping, instructing, and sobering story of Balaam.

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