From the Word: 10 And Balak’s anger was kindled against Balaam, and he struck his hands together. And Balak said to Balaam, “I summoned you to curse my enemies, and, behold, you have thoroughly blessed them these three times. 11 Now then, flee to your home. I said I would greatly honor you, but see, the Lord has kept you from honor.” 12 And Balaam said to Balak, “Did I not tell your messengers whom you sent to me, saying, 13 ‘If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the Lord, to do either good or bad of my own will. What the Lord speaks is what I will speak’”? (Numbers 24:10–13)
From the Confessions: The Large Catechism, The Ten Commandments
The First Commandment
You shall have no other gods before me.
So, too, those who trust and boast of their great skill, wisdom, power, favor, friendship, and honor also have a god — but not the true and only God. Notice again, how presumptuous, secure, and proud people are because of such possessions, and how despondent they become when these things no longer exist or are withdrawn. Therefore, I repeat that having anything in which the heart entirely trusts, is to have a god.
Pulling It Together: Balak is exasperated at the realization that he cannot have his own way. He tried three times to coerce Balaam to curse God’s people, yet God blessed them three times over. Balak was told beforehand that God’s word would be spoken, only for the king to try to undo the divine will those three times. This is, of course, the promotion of one’s own will over God’s will. It is trust in one’s own power of persuasive speech, one’s own power and position. It is trust in a false god.
Before we dismiss this as an interesting story about someone else, do make yourself consider that it is also a story about you and me. We too, can place our trust, hopes, and dreams in other gods. And we do.
Prayer: I ask you again, Lord, to help me fear, love, and trust in you above all other gods. Amen.
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