Balaam, The Improbable Prophet (Part 1)

Anyone who has traveled with small children will remember the question that inevitably arises from at least one of them during a trip, “Are we almost there?” Sometimes the query is, “How much longer before we get there?” These and similar inquiries often are voiced by eager young ones only fifteen minutes into an extended trip!

Can you imagine how many times these questions were heard from little children during the Israelites’ forty-year journey to the Promised Land? Not only the children who came out of Egypt, but also their children must have asked those questions hundreds of times. The answer they most often probably received was, “We don’t know when but we do know that God will lead us to our land someday.”

When the Israelites finally reached the plains of Moab, however, that answer must have changed to “Soon we will be there, children.” The plains of Moab were “beyond the Jordan at Jericho” (Num. 22:1). The people could look across the narrow river in its gorge and see the Promised Land. It had been a long and tedious journey, and they now were almost home. They had endured dozens of trials and conflicts during their wilderness experience, but as they were camped on those plains, they would experience the most severe attack of all. The ironic thing about this trial, however, is that none of the Israelites—not even Moses—knew anything about it when it was taking place!

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