Casting off Restraint...
Forgetting the Lesson of Balaam
by Kenneth Ryland
Freedom depends on morality. This truth is repeated countless times in every way imaginable in the writings of the Founding
Fathers of the United States. And morality, of course, must be based on universal spiritual principles that transcend nations
and time before it can truly be called "morality." Any concept of morality that cannot pass the test of transcendence and
timelessness is really nothing more than a set of social mores—convenient customs that ebb and flow with the tide of
society’s mood. Right now, that mood is antimoral, often displaying an open hostility to any idea of universal, timeless
What most do not realize is that with the disappearance of morality, there is always, of necessity, a disappearance of
freedom. If the rules of courtesy and good conduct do not flow from internalized universal, timeless core values, they will be
imposed from without. In a word, anarchy always leads inevitably to dictatorship. Of course, dictatorship does not always come
in the form of one-man rule. It can also come in the guise of oppressively powerful government bureaucracies whose
justification for existence consists of taking from some and offering these confiscated gains to others, which, in turn,
breeds dependency on oppressive government in the recipients. Lawlessness always creates a climate that demands more laws,
more control, and harsher and more unreasonable enforcement.
We live in increasingly lawless times. One sure evidence of this is the increase of government control over almost every aspect
of our lives.
To anyone who complains that we are losing our freedoms, I would say, "We lost our moral foundation long before we lost our
freedom." The two are inexorably bound together. If your morality makes you a threat to your neighbor, your neighbor will
demand that some government agency put an end to your threatening behavior. The law was not made for the righteous,
but for the unrighteous, and the more unrighteousness there is, the more laws there will be, along with ever harsher enforcement
of those laws. Eventually, freedom yields to government force to guarantee order in society.
There are some who wish to make us forget the lesson of Balaam, or anything else that the Bible might tell us. They imagine
themselves as part of some new ruling government elite, just as some did in Mao’s China or Stalin’s Russia, and so long as
people govern themselves through an understanding of the universal laws of God, those godly laws and the morality that
comes from them stand as a direct threat to the delusions of grandeur of such secular elitists.
Numbers 22 through 24 tells us the story of Balaam. In this story Balak, the ruler of Moab, is in a panic because Israel has
crossed the Jordan and demolished Jericho through the power of the Lord. Balak knows that Moab’s demise will come soon if
something drastic is not done. So, Balak hires Balaam the prophet to curse Israel. The only problem is that God refuses to
curse Israel. Rather, through Balaam’s mouth, God blesses Israel three times, so Balak’s plan is thwarted—or is it? So long as
the Israelites lived morally and righteously before God, no curse could be pronounced upon the nation. But, something
changed all that. Where Balaam failed to bring a divine curse on Israel, he succeeded in bringing God’s wrath on the nation by
seducing her men into immorality and idolatry with the young women of Moab. "Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling
block before the sons of Israel, that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice immorality" (Revelation 2:14 RSV).
We read of the results of Israel’s immortality in Numbers 25:1-5, "Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people
began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate
and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel. Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Take all the leaders of the people and hang the offenders before the LORD, out in the sun, that
the fierce anger of the LORD may turn away from Israel.’ So Moses said to the judges of Israel, "Every one of you kill his men
who were joined to Baal of Peor."
There are some very obvious morals to this story. I’ll let you the reader ruminate on some of the things this story of Balaam
might teach us. One lesson, however, that I hope will not escape anyone is that we as Christians must be engaged in the affairs
of society so that the influence of God will be displayed in contrast to the moral slime pit that society is becoming. It is
not enough for us to cloister ourselves in our homes and churches reading the Bible and praying. If we will not speak up
about the consequences of our nation’s moral slide, then who will? No one will hear or be changed by words that are never
spoken. Yes, there might be ridicule and even persecution if we draw attention to ourselves and our commitment to Christ in that
way, but did not Jesus say, "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also" and that we should rejoice on such occasions.
As I alluded in the beginning of this article, the Founders of the American Republic grasped the significance of the
relationship between obedience to the laws of God and political liberty. Such freedom cannot long endure in a climate of moral
and spiritual corruption. Such corruption begs for evil men and women to seek power to manipulate and use others. The morality
of God and His people stands squarely in the path of such evildoers. Too many think of our society’s moral slide in terms
of end-days prophecy, and miss the opportunity to put forth the message of Christ as a healthy alternative to the secularist
march toward hell. Whether we are seeing prophecy lived out before our eyes is, in one sense, irrelevant. What is important
for us as Christians is what we do in the face of these disheartening and sometimes frightful events. To observe and
report them is not enough. While it is still day and we have the light of the freedom God has granted us, we can ill afford to
hole up in our homes and churches while the laborers of sin seize our sons and daughters. Remember the word of our Lord, "I
came not to bring peace, but a sword."