Word@Work, Let God's Word energise your working day!

The Madness Of Folly

2 Peter 2:15-16
They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey – an animal without speech – who spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness. (NIVUK)

While a few people are intentionally evil, most do not set out to be wicked.  This probably applies to the well-meaning politician, the ambitious professional, the hard-working trader, and the compassionate spiritual leader.  Yet many dabble in sin, are entertained by evil and consider alternatives to truth.  This is because our sinful nature is perverse and instinctively resistant to God and His Truth.  So, along with everybody else, we are all tempted to play with fire, but Peter is specifically talking about false teachers whose influence was so dangerous.  But 'going wrong' is rarely a sudden climactic event; it is the end point of a process that starts when we wander from the right way and nobody brings us back on track (James 5:19).
Of course, there needs to be a reason to tempt us into sin (James 1:13-15).  Peter used the remarkable story of a pagan prophet Balaam to illustrate his point that wandering off the right path leads to disaster unless stopped: in this case by a talking donkey!  If you do not know the story, read it in Numbers 22:1-38 - it is one of the most ironic and amusing episodes in the Old Testament!  But Peter gets under the skin of Balaam's character by highlighting his weak point; he "loved the wages of wickedness". In other words, as the 'high' or 'buzz' rewards the drug-taker, and money rewards the thief, so every sin has an attractive immediate outcome.  That may only last for a moment, or may be overtaken by disaster; but the pull is strong enough for the temptation to be fatal (Romans 6:23).
In God's mercy, Balaam (who was tempted to take money in exchange for cursing Israel) was rebuked by a talking donkey that could see God's way better than the false prophet.  However, despite all God’s interventions, Balaam (whose name means ‘Devourer of the people’) had infused Israel with the worship of his god Baal so that God’s people felt it was alright to indulge in immoral pagan festivals (Numbers 25:1-3).  Balaam’s heart was not changed and he perished in battle (Numbers 31:8).  False teachers like Balaam were identified in the church at Pergamum (Revelation 2:14).  They too were commanded to repent, or the Lord would fight against them.

Sometimes God does intervene in unique ways to prevent us going off track, as in Paul’s Damascus road experience (Acts 9:1-6); but far better when we choose to stay close to the Lord and not to wander.  However well we have run in the past, keeping in the right still depends on our willingness to submit to God's Word.  Failure to read, reflect on the scriptures and live obediently to them will inevitably induce spiritual instability.  That spiritual wobble will make it impossible to steer a course straight towards Jesus.  When that happens, a personal catastrophe looms ahead: if it happens to a teacher, many others are dragged off course too, and the judgement is more severe (James 3:1).  So, we need to keep coming back to the Scriptures and praying for those who presently refuse to do so.

Father God. Thank You for welcoming home every prodigal who repents. Please forgive me for the times I have been lured off Your pathway. Please give me a fresh desire to live close to You. I pray for those of my friends, family and colleagues who cannot see the folly of wandering off from You. Please bring them to repentance and faith, and help me to set them a good example. For the sake of the honour of the Lord Jesus Christ and in His Name. Amen.
Bible Book: 

© Dr Paul Adams