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Faith Imagined: Motive Contradictions

Faith Imagined

Alisa Hope Wagner: Christian Writer

December 19, 2010

Motive Contradictions

As I read the story of Balaam, I was intrigued because God seems to contradict Himself. Balak, king of Moab, is worried because a huge, homeless nation (Israel) is wandering in his kingdom's direction. Balak concludes that Israel wants to claim his land, so he sends Moabite officials to persuade the prophet Balaam to aid him. He wants Balaam to curse the already blessed Israel nation.

The king offers Balaam a lot of money to come to him, but at first God would not allow Balaam to go. The king then sends more officials and money, and God tells him that he can go: "That night God came to Balaam and told him, 'Since these men have come for you, get up and go with them. But do only what I tell you to do'" (Numbers 22.20 NLT).

The very next morning Balaam gets up to go with the men, but two verses later God (so it seems) contradicts Himself: "But God was angry that Balaam was going, so he sent the angel of the Lord to stand in the road to block his way" (Numbers 22.22a).

Balaam does not have his eyes set on God, but the poor donkey he's riding does. God sends the Angel of the Lord to confront Balaam. Three times the donkey stops before stepping into slicing distance of the angel's sword; and each time the donkey goes off course, Balaam beats it. Finally, God miraculously gives the donkey the ability to speak.

The donkey asks, "What have I done to you that deserves your beating me three times?" (28b).

What is Balaam's reply? "You have made me look like a fool!" (29). This is a good signifier that something is wrong with Balaam's motives.

God then opens Balaam's eyes, and he sees the Angel of the Lord. The Angel tells him, "Go with these men, but say only what I tell you to say" (35).

So in all, God tells Balaam to go with the officials twice and not to go with them twice. What is going on? It all comes down to motive. God sees sin before it manifests itself into the physical world. God wants Balaam to go with these men, but Balaam's heart isn't right. 1) He doesn't have his eyes on God. He is unable to sense the presence of the Lord even though his donkey does. 2) He worries about what others think more than what God thinks. He yells at his donkey for making him look like a fool in front of the officials. 3) He isn't planning on being obedient to God. The Angel of the Lord has to remind him to say only what God wants him to say. A reminder isn't necessary if Balaam is intending to be obedient.

What I learned from this story is this: We can't just be obedient to God in the physical world; we must also be obedient in the spiritual world. God dwells in the Spirit, and He sees the motives of our hearts. We can go to church, read our Bible and talk about spiritual things; but if our eyes are not on God, if our focus is on other people's opinions, and if our souls are not obedient to the daily movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we will not be able to move on the paths of righteousness He has set for us (Psalm 23.3 NASB).

I believe that God wants to pull out every root of selfish motive (especially the small ones), before we enter into a promised land that He has for us. Even though that root might not be visible to us now, it will grow and start affecting our lives in apparent ways. God has great plans for us, but He might be placing Himself in our way for a reason. He may be protecting us from our ugly motives we haven't even discovered.

The only way we can find out for sure if there is something wrong with our motives is to allow the Holy Spirit complete access to our souls -- mind (thinking), will (actions) and heart (feelings). As Christians, God's Spirit is in us, and He will bring to light any darkness He finds, exposing all our pretty, sugar-coated intentions.

We will not claim victory unless God fights for us; however, He will not fight for us if our motives are not pure. How do we know when our motives are pure? King Nebuchadnezzar said it best after he lost his throne and spent 7 years living like an animal in the wilderness.

His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?”
- Daniel 4.34b-35

Once King Nebuchadnezzar understood the magnitude of God, his kingdom was restored. Our little lives are nothing compared to God. God is what makes our lives worthy, and He can do what He pleases. The mere fact that we have the choice to be obedient to His will is an honor. I pray that I can understand the expanse of who God is. If I truly knew Him, my motive would always be to glorify Him.

* Another example of motive contradiction is when the people of Israel were too afraid to occupy their Promise Land, even though God promised to be with them (Numbers 13 & 14). After they disobeyed God, they felt guilty about not going. A group decided to finally fight for their land, but it was too late. God did not go with them because their motives were wrong, and the people that went to fight were slaughtered. Their physical actions seemed right, but their motives were not pure. God had the nation of Israel wait 40 years before He reopened the path to the Promise Land, so that the selfish motives of that generation could die off (Deuteronomy 1.26-46).

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Blogger Beth.. One Blessed Nana said...

I always love these type of posts. You give me some real good scriptures to mull over and glean something new from.

I just love this and it gave me new insight on this story.

Thank you Alisa for all you do for God!

9:50 PM  
Blogger Wanda said...

When I read over the story of Balaam a few months ago, I was puzzled my God's seemingly confused instructions. You've shed some light on this story for me Alisa.

10:34 PM  
Blogger The Unknowngnome said...

Well it's obvious that you say only what He tells you to say!
Your motives here at Faith Imagined always glorify Him.

"I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob..." (Nu 24:17)
and "bring to light any darkness He finds".

10:38 PM  
Blogger Stuff could always be worse said...

Love your post again! Balaam and motives, you have shed light on it

11:01 PM  
Blogger Sharon Kirby said...

This was very thought-provoking, Alisa.

You are so right in saying that we often have "sugar-coated" motives that God needs to expose. It's not fun. I like how you pointed out that sometimes God stands in the way, until He has HIS way with us - until we stop being set in our "mulish" ways, and yield everything to Him.

We have to give the Holy Spirit permission to examine us (every ugly, hidden thing) and pray for the courage to be pruned and uprooted.

I know I pray for that - because I want God to work IN me and THROUGH me - because I want God...

Thanks for sharing this...


(p.s. The picture of the donkey's mouth was very cute! I wanted to give it a little "smoosh" kiss!!)

1:43 AM  
Blogger Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Motives are HUGE! Thanks for the reminder!

10:34 AM  
Blogger May said...

Your posts are very inspiring and I look forward to reading more from you. Merry Christmas and God bless.

11:20 AM  
Blogger Deborah Ann said...

You have nailed this one. This particular OT story has always picqued my curiosity. I agree that worrying about other people's opinions can be our own downfall. What a great reminder to rise above our selfish desires and keep our eyes on God...

Merry CHRISTmas, Alisa!

2:53 PM  
Anonymous Renee Ann said...

I pray that God keeps protecting me from my ugly motives! He definitely knows my motives better than I do!

9:35 PM  
Anonymous Alex Marestaing said...

Motives do matter, we might be at the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing, but if our motives are wrong, then we're not where we should be. The good thing is that God is patient and merciful and he works "all things for good" even in the midst of wrong motives. In other words, he gives us time to work things out.

1:26 PM  
Blogger MTJ said...

Hi Alisa,

This lesson on motives is something which I shall continue to pray about. It is easy to make the logical assumption that getting clearance from God means I can do what I want. This is what Baalam understood. He listened to what God God said, but it seems that all he heard was, "...get up and go with them."

Baalam had his own agenda, and like Baalam, I too can be driven by my own agenda.

I want to just say that for many months now, I have appreciated your friendship, fellowship and encouragement in this forum. Your passion for Christ and desire to share your faith is encouraging and uplifting.

Blessings and peace.


7:55 PM  
OpenID bluecottonmemory said...

I read this to my husband - it so blessed me - about one of my teens. We have never worried about what others thought of us; however, raising a teen who tries to step outside healthy boundaries has challenged us and we've caught ourselves concerned about the trickle down effect of one child's reputation to anothers - I need to constantly readjust my attitude to keep it focused on God's plan, to see my son as God sees Him and focus on Faith and Hope! Your post was a perfect cleanser - and has so excited my spirit to shake off those thoughts! I'll keep shepherding, keeping my eye on My Father! Thanks Alisa!

8:49 PM  
Blogger Michael Manning said...

Hi Alisa! I found this post very interesting. We live in a society today that (to quote bluecottonmemory) with increasing and alarming regularity "steps outside healthy boundaries". I see this in many retail stores where sales and service clerks are subjected to abuse by the public. When our hearts are aligned with the Good Lord, we are able to see others for their goodness and treat each other with respect and manners that selfishness often blocks. Sending Christmas Blessings to you and your family, Alisa!

11:21 PM  
Blogger lioneagle said...

Hi Alisa -

Thank you much for this piece, in particular, about Balaam. I often wondered about the seeming contradiction. Praise GOD for using you to provide revelation.
Later today I will go back and read that with "fresh" eyes.

And your reference to Daniel 4 also ministered to me, as well as Numbers 13 and 14.

Overall, I enjoyed this piece but, in particular, the Balaam account and Numbers 13 and 14.

Note: If you are so inclined...I posted a recent piece on my LIONS SHARE MAJESTY blog at titled, "EGYPTITIS - A STROLL DOWN EXODUS LANE." It is dated December 18, 2010.

12:14 PM  
Blogger ******Shelly****** said...

Thank you for always encouraging and challenging me through your posts....I have been away for a while and am happy to catch up! As always, your words speak straight to my heart. Merry Christmas to you and your family! :)

12:40 PM  
Blogger lioneagle said...

Hi Alisa -

I went back and read the Balaam scripture passages. Praise our Lord for giving you this piece because indeed He provided me more revelation about the Balaam account.

This a.m. I re-read your piece and got more revelation. In particular, the Lord had me to hone in on your statements, "God sees sin before it manifests itself in the physical world." And "...allow the Holy Spirit complete access to our souls."

Alisa, this piece made deep impact on me. Thank you for sharing it.

8:06 AM  

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