Episode VI: Return of the Balaam

I knew titling this blog post in such a way would captivate all you Star Wars fans. For those who are not Star Wars fans, please bear with me and read the following description with some imaginative enthusiasm. So, now that I’ve acquired your attention, I’ll satisfy your taste buds with a little Star Wars melodramatic allegory.

Luke Skywalker, a Jedi knight now dressed in black, holds his lightsaber, un-ignited in his mechanical hand while hiding from Darth Vader in a darkened, low-ceiling-ed area below the throne room. Darth Vader searches for Luke in the darkness, his lightsaber held ready to strike his son as soon as he reveals himself. Vader tries to coerce Luke to turn to the dark side in order to save Luke’s friends. Luke has a weakness—a definite vulnerability—he loves his friends. Like Vader before he turned, Luke has a soft spot for his friends—especially his sister—and he would do anything to save them. Vader turned in order to save his wife—perhaps he could turn Luke in order to save his sister.

“If you will not turn to the dark side, then perhaps she will!” Vader exclaims.

Luke ignites his lightsaber and attacks his father in a rage. Defeating Darth Vader was easy because Luke tapped into a hatred and anger that is forbidden for the Jedi. Darth Vader lay defeated…his mechanical hand revealed before Luke and the Emperor. Luke looks at his father’s mechanical hand, then to his own mechanical, black-gloved hand, and realizes how much he is becoming like his father. He probably recalls a training exercise many years earlier on Yoda’s home planet of Dagobah, where he fought an apparition of Darth Vader only to discover the man beneath the mask happened to be himself—his own blank eyes staring back at him. Luke’s worst fears were about to become a reality. He asked himself, “Am I capable of the same evil as my father? Am I capable of falling to the temptations of the dark side and forgo the blessings of the Jedi?”

Thankfully, for the sake of the movie and the success of the franchise, Luke never turns to the dark side, the Emperor fails, Luke gets zapped by some lightning fingers, Darth Vader changes back to the good side, destroys the Emperor, and then dies. Yay!

Luke, as all other Jedi in the galaxy far, far away, receives a blessing from the Force. The Force gives the Jedi their power. It’s an energy field created by all living things…it surrounds them and penetrates them, and binds the galaxy together. The Force cannot be altered, changed, or manipulated…it will always remain faithful to the Jedi as long as the Jedi remain faithful to it. However, the Jedi can be seduced by the dark side; they can become unfaithful and once they start down the dark path, forever will it dominate their destinies. The Emperor knew this, so he seduced Anakin Skywalker by tempting him with some “benefits” of the dark side of the Force. He promised Anakin powers that the Force could not provide. Once Anakin gave into those temptations, he was no longer the good man Anakin Skywalker, instead he became the evil Darth Vader. The Emperor believed he could use those same tactics to convince Luke to betray the blessings of the Force, turn his back on peace, humility, contentment, self-control, and instead seek war, power, greed, and selfishness.

He’s back! Balaam has returned.

Here you thought Balaam was gone for good…marching back to his homeland with nothing in his pockets—his head slumped toward the ground kicking a few rocks here and there in despair. He was for sure walking because you know his donkey didn’t want anything to do with him. After failing miserably to convince God to curse the Israelites, Balak and Balaam parted ways, leaving Balaam broke-as-a-joke and pondering alternatives.

I can picture it now. Balaam peering off into the far reaches of the desert and thinking to himself:

“How can I persuade God to curse the Israelites?”

“How can I change God’s mind?”

“How can I give Balak what he desires?”

“How can I fill my pockets with Balak’s treasures and return home a wealthy man and a successful prophet?”

Suddenly it clicked.

“If I can’t turn God, perhaps I can turn God’s people?”

“God will always remain faithful to God’s promises, but the Israelites can change. The Israelites can be seduced by the dark side. Once the Israelites start down the dark path, forever will it dominate their destiny?”

The Scriptures don’t record Balaam’s thoughts or his decision to turn back, but we later know that this is exactly what happened. Balaam found a loophole, possibly while he was journeying back home. Balaam discovered a way to placate the desires of Balak, eliminate the Israelite threat, accumulate some wealth and possession, and validate his ego (Numbers 31:8,16; Joshua 13:22; 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 1:11; Revelation 2:14). Balaam would convince Balak to seduce the Israelites to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, make sacrifices to their gods, eat the sacrificial meal, bow down before these gods, and yoke themselves to the Baal of Peor (Numbers 25:1-3).

It worked. God’s anger burned against the Israelites and he punished them. God is faithful; but we can always turn to the dark side. Balaam didn’t make it far. The Israelites eventually caught up to him and killed him. He’s remembered throughout history as the prophet who leads you into darkness, sin, and rebellion. Balaam was just a prophet and tool of the very first Sith Lord—Satan. Our enemy is capable of using our weaknesses and deepest vulnerabilities to tempt us and persuade us away from worshiping and tapping into the FORCE—ALMIGHTY GOD—the One who binds us and empowers us and penetrates us and strengthens us and holds us together. God is forever faithful and our enemy knows that. Like Balaam, the enemy cannot coerce God to love us less or diminish God’s blessings. Yet, the enemy can seduce us. He knows exactly what will instigate a reaction within us. He knows precisely how to trigger our anger, lust, pride, and discontent to where we ignite our sin and rebellion and take a journey to the dark side.

Israel could have avoided the seductions of the enemy by tapping into THE FORCE and resisting the temptations of THE DARK SIDE. Tapping into God is being mindful of God’s constant presence—by allowing God to penetrate our very being. God will bind us, fill us, empower us, strengthen us, and fulfill us. When we do this, we can become vulnerable with God and with others, and we don’t have to worry about the Sith Lord using our vulnerabilities against us. We can love and care deeply and freely and openly, and continue to receive the amazing and wonderful blessings God has in store for us.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

—Philippians 4:4-9

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