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 2Peter 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 2Peter 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.
13 …. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 14They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! 15Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness. – 2Peter 2:13-16 ESV
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.
26Then the angel of the LORD went ahead and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. 27When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam. And Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. 28Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.” 30And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?” And he said, “No.” 31Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face. 32And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me. 33The donkey saw me and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let her live.” – Numbers 22:26-33
- 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.
Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the LORD. – Numbers 31:16 ESV
- 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.