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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
The Large Catechism – part 42

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From the Word: But Balaam answered Balak, “Did I not tell you, saying, “All that the Lord speaks, that I must do”? (Numbers 23:26)

From the Confessions: The Large Catechism, The Ten Commandments

The First Commandment

You shall have no other gods before me.

I must unfold this more plainly with ordinary examples of failing to observe this commandment, so that it may be understood and remembered. Many think they have God and an abundance of everything they need when they have money and possessions. They trust in them and boast about them with a stubborn sense of security, and care for no one else.

Such people have a god, and its name is Mammon, that is, money and possessions. They set their whole hearts on this most common idol in all the earth. Those who have money and property feel secure, happy, and untroubled, as though sitting in the midst of paradise. On the other hand, they who have nothing, doubt and despair as though they never knew of God. They are a very few are who are cheerful, who do not worry and complain, if they do not have mammon. This desire for wealth attaches and adheres to our nature, all the way to the grave.

Pulling It Together: See how unhappy King Balak is, with his godless insecurities. He will only be happy if millions of Israelites are cursed. Balaam also seems less than pleased, if the New Testament commentary has anything to offer (2 Pet 2:15–16). He is willing to climb to any height or go to any depth to get the king’s riches. The irony of the story is that Balaam could only do what the Lord told him to do. He did the Lord’s will, but without honoring him as God, with true fear, love, and trust (Num 25:1–18; Num 31:16). Balaam, who wanted the king’s purse so acutely, came up as empty-handed as he was empty-hearted.

Prayer: Help me to trust in you, Lord, with true faith. Amen.

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