Continuing his warnings about the false teachers, Peter uses of Balaam from Numbers 22-24. Like Balaam, the false teachers are profiting from causing the people of God to stumble.
Peter is writing to churches which are troubled by false teachers who are distorting the apostolic gospel and deceiving believers into leading immoral lives. In 2 Peter 1, Peter insisted that the apostolic gospel is a revelation from God and that believing the gospel results in a lifestyle marked by a pursuit of godliness. In 2 Peter 2, Peter says God will judge surely the false teachers. Peter gives both a warning and an encouragement. Yes, God is coming to judge, but He will rescue His people.
Who is Balaam?
- The story of Balaam takes place during the time when the Israelites were in the wilderness.
- The first time God takes the people to the edge of the promised land they refuse to enter. After wandering 40 years in the wilderness, God is leading them back to the promised land and giving them victory over there enemies. During this approach we meet Balaam.
- King Balak of Moab fears the approach of the Israelites, so he hires the seer Balaam to curse Israel (Numbers 22:1-6).
- The first time the King asks, Balaam refuses as commanded by the Lord.
- The second time the King begs for his Balaam, the Lord tells Balaam to go to the king BUT Balaam can say only that which the Lord commands him to say.
- Four times, as the Lord commands, Balaam blesses Israel rather than curses them (Numbers 23-24).
- Balaam is mentioned negatively in Deuteronomy 23:3-5 and Joshua 24:9-10.
Balaam and his donkey
- The episode with his donkey occurs before Balaam visits King Balak and pronounces his blessings.
- When the King’s men come a second time, they offer Balaam a blank check to curse Israel (Numbers 22:17).
- God tells Balaam he can go with them but he can only say what God commands him to say (Numbers 22:20).
- But Balaam intends to disobey God.
- An angel of the Lord blocks Balaam’s way. The donkey sees the angel while Balaam does not. Three times the donkey turns away from the angel. Three times Balaam strikes the donkey.
- Balaam intended to disobey God, take the money and curse Israel.
- The episode with the donkey (Numbers 22:22-41) is designed to correct Balaam.
- Balaam is a seer, a man who built a reputation by claiming to see into the mysteries of the divine. Yet here he sees cannot see anything but his donkey does.
- After this episode, Balaam advices the people of Moab to trick the Israelites into worshipping their gods (Numbers 25).
- He devices a plan to profit from making the Israelites stumble so that God will judge them.
- Revelation 2:14 tells us false teachers in Pergamum are causing the Israelites to stumble, like Balaam.
- Jude 1:11 tells us the false teachers seek to profit from causing others to stumble, like Balaam.
- Peter compares the false teachers to Balaam because they too cause others to stumble for profit. They don’t care if the lead others to destruction as long as they get paid.
How to recognize the apostolic gospel
- It speaks of the fact that we are sinners.
- It speaks of our need for mercy.
- It speaks of our need to be rescued from our sin.
- It points to the cross of Jesus Christ as the means by which we find that rescue.
- And it urges us to believe in such a way that it changes the way we live.
The farther any teacher moves from that central core, the more likely it is s/he is a false teacher.