Lesson 16 – “I Cannot Go Beyond the Word of the Lord”
Taught by Jeff Stone April 25, 2010
While preparing for this lesson, the thing that struck me the most was how Balaam went from being a righteous prophet to a tempter of Israel and ultimately lost his way. It’s a great lesson for us all to constantly keep ourselves in check.
Scriptures Covered in This Lesson:
Short Historical Recap and Summary:
Man of God
Read the three scriptures below . . . what sort of man would you say this person is:
“If [the king] would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God” (Numbers 22:18).
“All that the Lord speaketh, that I must do” (Numbers 23:26).
“I cannot go beyond the commandment of the Lord, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the Lord saith, that will I speak” (Numbers 24:13).
Man of Man
Now read these three scriptures below . . . what sort of man would you say he is:
“Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet.” (2 Peter 15-16)
“Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.” (Jude 1:11)
“But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.” (Revelation 2:14)
As you likely know, both sets of scriptures are referring to the same man, Balaam.
Points To Ponder
This lesson brought up several excellent questions that I think we should each ask ourselves. It all relates back to Alma’s question about your change of heart. You felt it once, but “can you feel so now?” (Alma 5:26)
Think about these two questions . . . they could also lead to excellent Family Home Evening discussions.
- Although Balaam refused Balak’s requests to curse Israel, he was willing to follow Balak from place to place and listen to his requests even though he knew they were wrong.) What are the dangers of listening to unrighteous suggestions (from friends or the media, for example) when we know they are wrong?
- What Lessons can we learn from this story?
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:
“What a story this is! Here is a prophet of God who is firmly committed to declare only what the Lord of heaven directs. There does not seem to be the slightest doubt in his mind about the course he should pursue. He represents the Lord, and neither a house full of gold and silver nor high honors offered by the king can sway him from his determined course . . .
“But greed for wealth and lust for honor beckon him. How marvelous it would be [for him] to be rich and powerful . . . Perhaps the Lord would let him compromise his standards and have some worldly prosperity and power . . . I wonder how often some of us get our direction from the Church and then, Balaam-like, plead for some worldly rewards . . .
“Balaam, . . . inspired and mighty as he once was, lost his soul in the end because he set his heart on the things of this world rather than the riches of eternity” (“The Story of a Prophet’s Madness,” New Era, Apr. 1972, 7).
- Israel complains and are consumed by fire for their lack of faith (Numbers 11)
- The complain again wanting meat instead of manna
- 70 others are giving the same gift as Moses and essentially become prophets to lighten his load
- Quail is sent to Israel, and many of those who eat are stricken with a plague for their lack of faith
- Miriam and Aaron feel as though they should be in charge and take Moses’s job (Numbers 12)
- Miriam is cursed with leprosy for a week
- Israel (after a year and a half) near the borders of the Canaan, the promised land
- 1 spy from each of the 12 tribes is sent to scope the territory (Numbers 13; Numbers 14)
- They return in 40 days reporting a bountiful land with fruit and plenty of resources
- 10 of the 12 spies, however, feel that it is impossible to take on the current occupants
- Caleb and Joshua (the other 2), however, had faith and new it was possible
- Based on the report of the 10 Israel complains and longs for Egypt
- They seek new leaders to take them back
- Caleb and Joshua are stoned for trying to talk sense into Israel
- The Lord appears in a cloud to kill those who are unfaithful
- Moses pleads for them and the Lord spares their lives
- Their unfaithful attitude, however, landed them 38 more years in the wilderness
- All people over the age of 20 were not allowed to enter the promised land (except Joshua and Caleb)
- Israel panics and attacks Canaan and Israel is slaughtered
- Many die over the next 38 years until eventually only those under 20 remain (16,000 deaths per year)
- Miriam Dies
- Moses and Aaron are chastised for a moment of arrogance and are told that they will not enter the promised land
- Israel is commanded to enter the promised land on the North East side rather than the west
- They try to pass through Edom, but the King does not allow it
- Thus Israel must go south and around traveling east, then north
- Aaron dies
- Canaanites attack . . . they are eventually defeated once Israel is in the promised land
- King Balak (of Moab) sees the Israelites coming and fears them (Numbers 22)
- He offers Balaam (Prophet of God) rewards if he will curse the Israelites, but Balaam refuses (Numbers 22: 8–14)
- Balaam is offered further reward, and so he asks God if he should go with Balak
- The Lord says, “no . . . but do what you want . . . ” basically.
- Balaam decides to go, but his Donkey won’t move, so he beats the donkey
- The Donkey talks back (Numbers 22: 22–30) and tells him that an Angel is blocking him
- Balaam repents, sort of . . . he again follows Balak
- Three different times Balak convinces Balaam to follow him and get a “different view” of the Israelites hoping Balaam would curse them
- Each time, Balaam refuses.
- Ultimately, however, Balaam tells the Midianites how to tempt Israel with Idol Worship and Immorality (Numbers 31:16)
- Israel defeats the Midianites and Slays Ballam