In the book of Numbers is an interesting interlude regarding a prophet called Balaam. He appears to have been a pagan soothsayer from close to the Euphrates river, some way east of Israel. The Moabite king, Balak, is scared because he sees the Israelites camped on his borders, and fears invasion. So he sends for Balaam in order that he might invoke a curse on them. Balaam refuses to come at first, then is sent by God, but presumably goes with bad motives, and his donkey has to come to his rescue (check out Numbers 22:21-35 for that story). Finally Balaam arrives, but says he can only pronounce what he is permitted by God to say. Three times he ends up blessing the Israelites and cursing the Moabites, much to the king’s rage. In all this Balaam appears to be open to God and to have a relationship with Him. After his early questionable motives he seems to have learned his lesson, and obeys God even when it means angering his paymaster, meaning he goes home with nothing.
But sadly the story doesn’t end there. Balaam was prevented from cursing the Israelites, but Numbers goes on to detail how the Moabites tricked the Israelites into idolatry by using their women to seduce the Israelite men. Balaam apparently didn’t go home, but stayed with the Moabites because Numbers 31:8 recounts that when Israel finally got its revenge and defeated their enemies, Balaam was also killed. Even more damningly Moses is recounted as saying of the Moabite women: “These are the very ones who followed Balaam’s advice and caused the people of Israel to rebel against the Lord….” (Numbers 31:16a NLT). His bad example is also recounted in a message of Jesus to the church in Pergamum in Revelation 2:14.
So it seems that Balaam decided to act against God’s people even though he knew that God intended to bless them. Despite him receiving great revelation from God he turned his back on Him. He returned to his old ways as a pagan soothsayer. He tasted the goodness of God, and the power of God, and yet rejected it and decided to be a stumbling block. This shows me that there are people who despite knowing God, experiencing His grace and power in their lives, will choose in any case to reject Him. To Balaam can be added many of the Pharisees and priests of Jesus’ time, King Saul, Judas Iscariot, and plenty of people in our present time. Some will choose to oppose God come what may.