Tim Keller has said something like this: “If you see sin only as breaking God’s law, then you still don’t get it. You must see sin as breaking God’s heart.”
I wonder if we really get that. If we did, would we treat sin so casually? Our sins should not cripple us – I don’t mean that. God is righteous and holy. He will not be mocked. Sin is an affront to his very nature. When we sin, we stand in defiance to him. To sin is to commit treason against the king of the universe. It is worse than betraying the people of your nation – it is betraying your God. This is all true, but it’s not the whole story.
Balaam was an idiot. In 3000 years, we haven’t learned a lot.
Balaam’s story (Num 22-24) contains a lot of great lessons. Balaam was a prophet, but not a good one. Balaam was a non-Israelite diviner who was summoned by the king of Moab to offer his services. This king – Balak – thought he could hire a prophet to speak anything he desired, and it would happen. Balaam really, really wanted to please the king because he would make him extremely rich. He asked God over and over to allow him to go and curse the Israelites on behalf of king Balak, but God repeatedly said no.
Balaam ended up going with the king even though God had told him not to on more than one occasion. Finally, while on the road, Balaam’s donkey stopped and refused to go any farther. Balaam beat the donkey badly, not realizing the donkey saw an angel God had sent to stop them. Once Balaam’s eyes were opened and he saw the angel, he said this:
Anyone with very much exposure to the bible has heard Jesus’ apparent instruction to cut off your hand or gouge out your eye if it causes you to sin. Jesus was a master of hyperbole. He would often make an extreme exaggeration to get his point across. His point was that we should “cut off” or eliminate anything from our lives that separates us from God. He went so far as to suggest that we cut off parts of our body to make his point – and I’ll bet people listened and remembered!
You and I might say that something weighed a ton, or that you were hungry enough to eat a horse. Neither is true, but it makes the point.
In the 1990 movie Flatliners, Nelson (played by Kiefer Sutherland) convinces his closest friends in medical school to kill him. He has decided that he wants to experience death so he can see what is on the other side. The plan is to let him experience death for a few moments, then revive him. It works, and through the course of the movie, the others experience death as well.
After his first trip into the afterlife, Nelson describes death as difficult to put into words, but somehow comforting. In death though, they all end up somehow awakening past transgressions they thought were buried. Whether grade-school teasing and bullying or promiscuity later in life, they all somehow brought back these issues they had not yet dealt with.