If you’re not already familiar with the story, I’d recommend you read it before you continue with what I wrote.
Here’s what grabs me: Balaam is an outsider, yet he really is a prophet of the Lord. Not a false prophet. Not a diviner, using spiritually shady tactics. A prophet of the Lord.
God’s chosen people are the Israelites. He has given no promises or covenants or guarantees to the people who have not descended from Abraham, other than a vow not to flood the earth again. He doesn’t have any obligation to speak with somebody like Balaam, yet he does anyways.
Several times in this narrative, the scriptures clearly say that God comes to Balaam and talks to him. (22:9-12, 22:20, 22:32-35, 23:4, 23:16, 24:2)
And what’s more, Balaam is obedient to God. Until God gives him permission to go with the messengers, he won’t do it. He repeatedly says that he will only say the things that God puts in his mouth, and backs it up by doing exactly that.
Now, in the end, Balaam ends up working to bring destruction upon Israel. He tells the king of Moab to entice Israel to sin through idolatry and sexual immorality. It leads to a plague in Israel and the death of Balaam himself as repayment.
But in this story, we see that God is working outside of his chosen people. A guy with no connections to Israel at all is using his God given gifts to make a living, blessing and cursing people – and he’s successful, according to the king of Moab (v. 6)
I wonder – where and how is the Holy Spirit moving in the world today outside of Christianity? Are there people who speak God’s truth without perhaps being fully aware of it?
Do some musicians and artists and poets and movie-makers create artistic expressions with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit despite only a desire to make a living?
Does God spread his truth and his life into places that we would least expect?
As Balaam himself comes to ruin through his self serving ways, perhaps God’s blessing does not guarantee that someone will lead a life that directly contributes to his kingdom, regardless of their gifts or calling.
The more we try to put boundaries around God, the more he seems to ignore them. The more we try to simplify him to a reliable formula, the more variables we find in him.
I wonder if we can find the places that God is moving in our schools, neighborhoods or workplaces and become a part of his work, rather than viewing ourselves as the only possible conduit for God’s ministry. Joining with a charity or outreach that isn’t “Christian”. Getting involved with an artistic collaborative (a band, or a play troupe, etc). Joining a discussion group centered on literature. These are just some possible ways we can place ourselves in areas that God may already be speaking – shockingly – without any outside help.
Perhaps that is what Jesus is talking about when he speaks of fields ripe for harvest. That God causes growth to occur, and we are simply called to point that out.