I have read the story of Balaam a few times over the years and I often wondered why God was upset with him when he went with Balak’s men, especially after God told him to go with them:
“20 That night God came to Balaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. 22 But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him…” (Numbers 22, NIV).
For some reason, I glossed over the part where it said, “That night… Since these men have come… go with them, but do only what I tell you” (Num 22:20). Balaam got up in the morning to go with the men. He should have gotten up as soon as God said for him to go with them (that night). Balaam did not do what God told him to do.
There was another instance earlier in the Bible where God’s exact words were not followed:
“7 The Lord said to Moses, 8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water…10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock…11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out…” (Num 20, NIV).
God told Moses to “speak to the rock” but Moses “struck the rock twice with his staff” instead (Num 20:8, 10). So God did the following:
“12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them” (Num 20:12, NIV).
After Balaam’s numerous encounters with the angel of God, he was told, “35 “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials” (Numbers 22, NIV). In other words, God was telling Balaam to do exactly what He wants him to do (and say).
So what does all this mean? I think this shows the importance of doing what God wants us to do when He tells us to do it. Don’t dismiss God and do your own thing; don’t hold off doing something He wants you to do when it is more convenient for you. More importantly, follow His instructions carefully.
There are so many things we can do that can glorify God, but how do we know exactly what He wants us to do? We have to listen to Him, and ask Him for clarity– we do that through prayer and reading through His Word. So read, pray, and listen carefully!