If it wasn’t for the continuity I want to keep for the Parashah posts every Friday, I would have titled this Shabbat’s Parashah, “It’s Always Up to You.”
This Parashah is also called the Book of Balaam, according to Jewish tradition, and it tells us the famous story of the talking ass, the beast of burden that Balaam is riding that avoids the Angel of the Lord sent to kill Balaam on his way to curse the nation of Israel in the Moabite desert.
Balaam is one of those people in the bible that is a conundrum: he clearly is worshipful and understands the one, true God, yet he also is a Diviner and “wizard-for-hire”, which is clearly against what God allows. He knows enough to ask for God’s guidance, can be convinced to do so, yet is later found disobeying what God says he should do, anyway.
Despite being enticed by rich rewards, and in the face of having three powerful kings really pissed off at him, Balaam (who has been called to curse the Jews) blesses them; not just once, but three times. The three blessings are because the kings of Moab asked him to curse them three times, despite Balaam saying that he could only do and say what God told him to. After the third blessing, Balaam is sent away with no pay, but before he goes he is led by God to give these kings a prophecy revealing their final defeat.
In the end, he does manage to help Balak, the Moabite king, to infiltrate and damage Israel by having the women of Moab seduce the men of Israel into worshiping the Semitic gods of the Moabites. The parashah ends with the zealousness of Pincus, the grandson of Aaron, killing an Israeli tribal prince who is flaunting his romantic relationship with a Moabite woman, right there in front of Moses and all the people.
What I see here is what happened to the world after Yeshua rose from the dead and through that resurrection, defeated the enemy of God, providing the salvation we all need. And more than that, I also see the ultimate truth about salvation- it’s up to us, always, to choose or reject it.
With Yeshua’s (Jesus) death the complete forgiveness of sin was made possible for all, and He defeated the enemy with His resurrection. But there is still sin and there are billions of unsaved people, despite the fact that the words, deeds and knowledge of Yeshua are known throughout the world. Why is that?
Because the enemy followed Balaam’s lead.
Balaam wasn’t able to curse the young nation of Israel, camped just outside of their final destination. As he was going to curse them, even though God said not to, he would have been killed if his donkey hadn’t bypassed the Angel of the Lord sent to smite him. Then as Balaam was beating this animal who has saved his life three times, it miraculously talked to Balaam and opened his eyes to see the angel standing in the road with sword drawn. From that point on, Balaam still had the choice to curse the Jews, but choose to save his life, instead.
However, once that scary episode was over, Balaam still managed to get around God by suggesting to the kings that they have their women go to the men of Israel, seduce them romantically, then use that relationship to influence them to worship the Moabite gods. And we read, in Chapter 25, that his plan was very effective. Without unsheathing a single sword, Balaam’s suggestion resulted, ultimately, in the death of some 24,000 Israelites.
Yeshua’s death didn’t save us, His resurrection did, but the enemy counter-attacked (just as Balaam did) with extreme effectiveness: he used Constantine to cause such a schism between the Jews who did not accept Yeshua as Messiah and the (now called) Christians who were not fully living Torah, that “religion” separated the God-fearing people so much that today we are two totally separate religions, with Jews rejecting anything Christian (including their own Jewish Messiah) and Christians rejecting the Torah, saying it was replaced by Jesus (who preached the validity and necessity of following the Torah.)
Balaam was going to do the wrong thing, he did the right thing, but then did the wrong thing. God led Balaam onto the path of righteousness, but Balaam still chose to go the path of deceit and rejection of God’s direction. And, as we read in Numbers 31:8, that decision led to his death.
We are all given the choice to chose life, through Messiah Yeshua, or to do as we please and choose death. We can change our mind, at any time, either one way or the other. Salvation is available to us, but we can choose to deny it, and even after we accept it, we can still choose to reject it. The bible is very clear about that. We need to realize that the enemy will not give up the fight- he will go into the pit of sulfur kicking and screaming, grabbing anything and anyone close enough to him to take in there with him. This means that we are never fully free of him, and won’t be until after the final Tribulation, the last fight, Yeshua standing on the Mount of Olives saying, “ENOUGH!” and the new Jerusalem being lowered from heaven.
Until then we need to be aware of our own frailties, and the power of the enemy to seduce us into sin. As Yogi Berra is known to have said, “It ain’t over ’till it’s over.”
Keep running the good race, keep your eyes on the prize, and don’t be swayed by others. Choose life, so that you may live, accept Yeshua (if you haven’t already) and never turn away from that, no matter what anyone says.
Look at it this way: God wants to be worshiped, He gave us the Torah to tell us how to worship Him, and He promised a Messiah to reconcile us back to Him. If Yeshua is the Messiah, then you need to accept Him and worship God and obey the Torah, just as Yeshua taught us to do.
If, however, Yeshua is not the Messiah, and you still worship God and obey the Torah, then by thinking and acting like Yeshua is the Messiah, do you really think God is going to have a problem with that? You are worshiping God, you are obeying the Torah- that is the foundation, that is the important thing, that is what is necessary.
But…you do need to accept Yeshua to be able to tear away the Parochet, to achieve fulfillment in your relationship with God, and to be saved from your sin once and for all. And, if you accept Yeshua and He isn’t really the Messiah, you are worshiping God and obeying the Torah, so you’re gonna be OK.
Get it? Accept Yeshua and do as God wants, you’re OK even if He isn’t the Messiah (but, He is); worship God, obey the Torah but reject Yeshua, then you better obey Torah exactly and completely, every second of your life, or you are in trouble.
The bottom line is accepting Yeshua as your Messiah is a win-win because Messiah or not, you will still be doing what God wants. Reject Yeshua and you take a big chance that billions of people (including millions of Jews) have been wrong for centuries.
Think about it.