When you first meet Balaam in the book of Numbers, he seems like a great guy. A look behind the curtain exposes a monster!
My Book Napping in Delilah’s Lap: The Plague of Pornography in the Pew & the Pulpit, available in Bookstores in June 2020, is a memoir and wake-up call outlining our capacity to be ensnared by a myriad fowlers – pride, food, sex, electronics, power, shopping, drugs, achievement, hypocrisy, and control, to name a few; and the solution of intimacy with God. Below is an excerpt from a chapter in it on a little known concept called the “Doctrine of Balaam” or “Balaam’s way.” I use the term pornography (a concept developed earlier in the book) to identify anything that turns our hearts away from God.
In true devil-fashion, through pornography, Satan perverts the gift and metaphor of sex. He turns the focus from experiencing and glorifying God to self-gratification; from serving and pleasing a spouse, to self-absorption. This results in a state of desensitization to God and to our spouse, if we have one. Sadly, what God intended as an object lesson of His love for us, becomes a means that separates and distances us from Him. We effectively turn our hearts away from God. This is called the ‘teaching or doctrine of Balaam.’
In the book of Numbers, we meet Balaam, a non-Israelite sorcerer. He wanted God to curse the Israelites. He advised the Moabite King Balak to use beautiful Moabite women to lure the Israelites from being faithful to Yahweh. It is Satan’s trusted go-to lure in his tackle-box of temptation. It works almost every time!
The Apostle John refers to this in Revelation 2:14 where Jesus is addressing the church at Pergamos. “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality.” Here again, we see the close relationship the bible weaves between idolatry and sexual immorality. They are 2 wings on the same bird.
Two other pieces of scripture mention this doctrine. 2 Pe. 2:15 “Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing,” and Jude 11 “Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion.”
Pornography, by definition, is not just physical. Thayer’s Definition of Bible Words adds that ‘porneia’ is “metaphorically the worship of idols.” As Hosea 4:7b says, “they exchanged their Glory [i.e. God] for something disgraceful.” … The main things we get to do with our bodies are to crucify them, to put off fleshly passions and desires, to present them as a living sacrifice to God, to steward them because they are God’s Temple, and pretty much other such things that aren’t meant to idolize it. Flying in the face of God’s plan, the doctrine of Balaam is intended for self-gratification.
The Bible is replete with clear instructions in the matter of sexual conduct. 1 Cor. 6:17-20 teaches, “But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality [pornography]. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” It continues, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.”
Ephesians 4:17-19 and 5:3a state, “… you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more… But among you there must not even be a hint of sexual immorality.”
We have learned that the goal of the doctrine of Balaam is to separate people from God. It is the exact opposite of the unity and intimacy that God desires. Because sex is so intensely sensual, I believe sex outside of God’s will (various forms of pornography) is a perfect tool the enemy uses to introduce a barrier between us and the lover of our souls. Jackie Hill Perry states “…that every person, place, or thing that I loved more than Him could not keep its promise to love me eternally. Nor was my heart created for them to hold. But they would instead do to me what all sin does, separate me from God, and thus true love, forever. It would be the death of me.”
The table below summarizes the issues at hand.
|What God Wants for/from Us
|What the Devil Wants for/from us
|Have life, and have it to the full
|Kill, steal, and destroy
|Be sanctified (set apart to/for God)
|Be separated from God
(The Doctrine of Balaam)
|1 Thess. 4:3
|Avoid sexual immorality
|1 Thess. 4:3
|1 Thess. 4:6
|1 Thess. 4:7
|1 Thess. 4:8
|Learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable
|Passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God
|1 Thess. 4:4-5
|No one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister
|Use freedom to devour each other
|1 Thess. 4:6
|Take up our cross/Self-denial
|Physical sensuality = self-gratification
|Sensitivity – soft, tender hearts that are responsive to God.
|Insensitivity – hard hearts that are desensitized or callous to God
Despite having been in conservative churches for over 30 years, I held the commonly misconceived definition of pornography as merely viewing erotica. I also held a rather worldly mindset regarding some aspects of pornography, by the biblical definition… My resolve for sexual purity didn’t stop me from engaging in what I now know to be utter sexual immorality – mentally and physically…
Some of my behavior, I didn’t even consider to be bondage – but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t. It had started willfully, but before I knew it, the more I tried to extricate myself, the tighter the chains held, the snare sinking its cold, jagged, scabrous fangs, deeper, deeper. Its rust shot straight to my heart.
Image retrieved 2/24/2020 from https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/peter-paul-rubens-samson-and-delilah