Sermon #22                                                    Jude Sermons


     Title:           The Error of Balaam

     Text:           Jude 1:11

     Date:          Tuesday Evening — March 22, 2005

     Tape #        Jude #22

     Readings:   David Burge and Bobbie Estes



(Jude 1:11)  “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.”


It is every faithful gospel preacher’s responsibility and great joy to preach the gospel of Christ, to proclaim to eternity bound, immortal souls the unsearchable riches of Christ and the common salvation that is ours in him.

·       Christ crucified is the foundation upon which God builds his church.

·       The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation, the means by which God calls sinners to life and faith in Christ.

·       And the preaching of the gospel is the means by which God’s saints are edified, strengthened, and comforted.


Nothing edifies me, nothing reproves my sin, nothing rebukes my unbelief, comforts my soul, nothing lifts my spirits, nothing cheers my heart, nothing constrains me to love my Savior and devote myself to him, like the message of his mercy, love, and grace to me, the message of redemption and righteousness in Christ. Our souls delight to sit at his feet and hear the word of his grace!


·       The gospel is the declaration of redemption accomplished, sin pardoned, and righteousness finished by the sacrifice of God’s darling Son.

·       Salvation comes to needy sinners by faith in the Lamb of God. — Trust Christ and salvation is yours. — “He that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life!

·       The only way to live in this world of woe is to live by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, our God and Savior, our Prophet, Priest, Mediator, Surety, and King.


It is always my delight to meditate upon, preach and write about “the common salvation.” Yet, it is sometimes needful to sound a word of alarm, to urge you to “earnestly contend for the faith,” and to warn to “beware of false prophets” who have “crept in unawares, denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.


This was Jude’s burden as he wrote his Epistle. The Holy Spirit laid the great weight of this burden on his heart and inspired that faithful servant of God to warn us of these “filthy dreamers,” who “defile the flesh,” and “speak evil of things which they know not.


In the 11th verse of this Epistle, the Holy Spirit pronounces the everlasting curse of God’s wrath upon all false prophets, describing them all as men who “have gone after the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.


·       The way of Cain is the way of freewill/works religion.

·       The error of Balaam is the error of compromise that is always inspired by greed and covetousness.

·       The gainsaying of Korah is impudence of pride and self-righteousness, springing from the love of adulation and prominence manifest in the Diotrephes’ spirit.


Tonight, I want us to look into the Book of God and see what is meant by those words which describe false prophets as men who run “greedily after the error of Balaam for reward.




Balaam was the infamous false prophet, called by God “the soothsayer,” whose awful error recorded in the book of Numbers. His story is found in Numbers 22-25. Most people think Balaam’s story ends in Numbers 24; but (as I hope to show you shortly) it doesn’t. Numbers 25 records the result of Balaam’s vile influence upon Israel. We read of his woeful end in Numbers 31:8 and Joshua 13:22. By the command of God given to Moses, he was slain with the sword along with the idolatrous Midianites.


This man, Balaam, was hired by the Balak, the son of Zippor, the Moabite king to make enchantments against and bring down a curse from God upon his people Israel. God told him plainly not to go with the Moabites (22:12). But when the princes of Moab offered Balaam riches to get him to do it, Balaam sought the Lord again, to see if His mind would change. “The anger of the Lord was kindled against him” (22:22), because, as Peter tells us, Balaam “loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Peter 2:15).


Much Truth


Before we proceed, let’s turn to Numbers 23. Men and women who refuse to come out of Babylon, commonly seek to justify themselves and the false prophet they follow and support, by saying, “You cannot say the man is a false prophet. He preaches from the Bible and says much that is good.” I fully agree, false prophets do say much that is good. In fact, Balaam, who is held before us as the most dangerous of all false prophets, proclaimed many things that are blessedly true. But his declaration of true doctrine was but a cloak to cover his covetous motives and corrupt principles.


Though he despised the gospel, the Lord put words in his mouth and forced him to speak truth, glorious gospel truth, as few men do. The fact is, I know very few men who would preach the glorious truths that Balaam asserted publicly.


(Numbers 23:8-10)  “How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the LORD hath not defied? (9) For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations. (10) Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!”


(Numbers 23:19)  “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?”


(Numbers 23:20)  “Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.”


(Numbers 23:21)  “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.”


(Numbers 23:23)  “Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought!”


(Numbers 23:24)  “Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion: he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain.”


No false prophet is so dangerous as the man who appears to proclaim the truth, but teaches Israel, by compromise to worship Jehovah at the altar of Baal. Balaam is held before us three times in the New Testament as a glaring beacon to warn us to avoid the influence of every false prophet.


The Way of Balaam


The Apostle Peter describes false prophets as men who “are gone astray following the way of Balaam” (2 Pet. 2:15-16).


(2 Peter 2:12-16)  “But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; (13) And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; (14) Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: (15) 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; (16) But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet.”


Like Balaam, false prophets are men who have willingly, deliberately, “forsaken the right way.” It is not that they do not know truth from error, but they forsake what they know is truth.

·       They forsake that which is plainly revealed by God.

·       They forsake the plain revelation of gospel truth.

·       They forsake Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life, the true and right way to righteousness, salvation, and eternal life.

·       They forsake the way of faith, “the simplicity that is in Christ.”


Forsaking the right way, they have “gone astray, following the way of Balaam.” What is Balaam’s way? Turn to Numbers 22 again, and I will show you. The way of Balaam is the way of pretense and hypocrisy, inspired by covetousness that makes men willing to compromise the truth of God, the gospel of God, the worship of God, and the glory of God for their own personal gain and interests.


When Balaam was called upon to curse Israel, under a pretense of piety, he said, “I’ll have to pray about that.” God told Balaam plainly that he was not to go with the Midianites and that he was not to curse Israel, because, he said, “They are blessed” (v. 12).


(Numbers 22:12)  “And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed.”


But Balaam’s show of devotion was nothing but a show. He was as fake as a three dollar bill. He was motivated by nothing but covetousness. Balak sent his messengers (This time he sent “princes more and more honorable” than the first.) back to Balaam, offering him great wealth and honor (22:14-17). Balaam asserted his utter devotion and faithfulness (22:18).


(Numbers 22:18)  “And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more.”


But he said, “I’ll pray about the matter again.” Being the “good man” he was, he wanted them to know he prayed a lot and prayed about everything! So Balaam spent the night on his knees and got what he wanted to hear from God. The Lord said, “Go with them…And God’s anger was kindled because he went” (22:20-22). Balaam was so determined to get the honor and wealth he coveted that, as the Holy Spirit puts it, when he was “rebuked for his iniquity, the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet,” the mad prophet would not be stopped, though God performed a miracle to rebuke his madness. Because he wanted Balak’s gold and honor among the Moabites, he was determined to curse Israel.


The Error of Balaam


In 2 Peter 2 the Holy Spirit tells us that false prophets are men who forsake the right way and follow the way of Balaam, the way of pretense and hypocrisy. In Jude 1:11 he tells us that they run “greedily after the error of Balaam for reward.” The error of Balaam is the error of every hireling prophet, — greed and covetousness.


Covetousness is wanting what you don’t have. This is the root of all evil, the curse of false religion, and the source of heresy. Jude is telling us that Balaam was and all false prophets are insatiably addicted to self-serving greed and covetousness. This was the thing for which Simon Magus was damned.


Faithful men are neither pretentious, nor hypocritical, nor self-serving, nor covetous. They are faithful to God, his word, and his people (2 Cor. 4:1-7).


(2 Corinthians 4:1-7)  “Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; (2) But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. (3) But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: (4) In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (5) For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. (6) For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (7) But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”


The Doctrine of Balaam


Balaam’s way is the way of hypocrisy and religious show. Balaam’s error is self-serving covetousness. The fact is there are just two kinds of preachers in the world. — Those who seek to be served and those who serve. — Those who use and those who are used. — Those who take and those who give. Now, turn to our Savior’s letter to the church at Pergamos (Rev. 2:14), and let me show you Balaam’s doctrine.


(Revelation 2:14)  “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.”


Covetousness is idolatry and leads to idolatry. But how was it that Balaam teach Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel? How did he teach idolatry for his doctrine? Can you show me any place in Scripture where it is recorded that Balaam taught some form of heretical doctrine? Where did he cause Israel to commit fornication? Let’s go back to the Book of Numbers (31:15-16).


The instruction Balaam gave to Balak, which is here called his doctrine, was this. He told Balak to get some of the most beautiful women in his kingdom to entice the men of Israel to worship Jehovah at the altars of Baal. This we see in Numbers 31:15-16.


(Numbers 31:15-16)  “And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? (16) Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.”


Yet, we are nowhere told that Balaam used such words. False prophets are too slick for that. Balaam taught his true doctrine, not by words, but by example. Everything he did he did “in the name of the Lord,” calling it the work, worship, and service of Jehovah. But it was all idolatry (Num. 22:38-23:3).


(Numbers 22:38-41)  “And Balaam said unto Balak, Lo, I am come unto thee: have I now any power at all to say any thing? the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak. (39) And Balaam went with Balak, and they came unto Kirjathhuzoth. (40) And Balak offered oxen and sheep, and sent to Balaam, and to the princes that were with him. (41) And it came to pass on the morrow, that Balak took Balaam, and brought him up into the high places of Baal, that thence he might see the utmost part of the people.”


(Numbers 23:1-3)  “And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven oxen and seven rams. (2) And Balak did as Balaam had spoken; and Balak and Balaam offered on every altar a bullock and a ram. (3) And Balaam said unto Balak, Stand by thy burnt offering, and I will go: peradventure the LORD will come to meet me: and whatsoever he showeth me I will tell thee. And he went to an high place.”


Balaam went through this religious ritual three times, each time calling upon the name of the Lord “in the high places of Baal!” It was by his example that this covetous, self-serving prophet taught Israel to commit idolatry. And the idolatry was not an open denial of truth, or of God, or of the gospel. It was the mixing of the worship of God with the worship of Baal, the mixing of freegrace with good works, the mixing of the Altar of God’s making and the Sacrifice of God’s providing with altars of man’s making and sacrifices of man’s providing. Look at Numbers 25, and you will see that Israel ran headlong after the doctrine of Balaam.


(Numbers 25:1-3)  “And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. (2) And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. (3) And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.”


Baal-peor was the dunghill god of the Moabites. Israel followed Balaam’s doctrine to such an extent that they ate the sacrifices of this dead, dung god and called it the worship of the living Jehovah!


(Psalms 106:28-29)  “They joined themselves also unto Baalpeor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead. (29) Thus they provoked him to anger with their inventions: and the plague brake in upon them.”


Israel Blessed


I cannot send you home until I have shown you one more thing. — Three times Balaam came with Balak to curse Israel (Num. 23:1-12; 23:14-25; 23:29-24:9). Each time, the Lord God used that covetous, dung-god prophet to bless his people. Each intended curse brought forth a greater blessing, until, at last, the Lord God forced these words out of the blaspheming prophet’s mouth. —


(Numbers 24:5-9)  “How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel! (6) As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river’s side, as the trees of lign aloes which the LORD hath planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters. (7) He shall pour the water out of his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. (8) God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows. (9) He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee.”


(Numbers 24:14-19)  “And now, behold, I go unto my people: come therefore, and I will advertise thee what this people shall do to thy people in the latter days. (15) And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said: (16) He hath said, which heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the most High, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: (17) I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. (18) And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly. (19) Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city.”


So it always has been. So it is now. And so it shall be throughout the ages.— Every attempt of hell to destroy God’s church shall only promote to good of his church. Every attempt of hell to injure our souls shall only prove to be an instrument of God by which his boundless blessings given to us in Christ from eternity are brought upon us!


(Psalms 76:10)  “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.”


(Revelation 12:1-12)  “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: (2) And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. (3) And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. (4) And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. (5) And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. (6) And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. (7) And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, (8) And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. (9) And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (10) And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. (11) And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (12) Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.”