Today's Favorite Verse: Numbers 22:20-22
"And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do.
And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.
And God's anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the Lord stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him."
Balak, king of the Moabites sees what Israel does to the Amorites and he desires Balaam to curse them. He sends the elders of Moab and Midian with a message to Balaam. Balaam refused to go with them, instead he has them stay the night so he can inquire of the Lord. He is told not to curse the people, for they are blessed. He then tells this to the elders. They return to Balak with this message and his response is to send more princes and honors to Balaam to have him come to him and curse this people. When Balaam receives this reply he has the princes wait so he can inquire again of the Lord. This time he is told in verse 22 he can go, but only if they call for him, and he is to say and do what the Lord tells him.
I was stuck for the longest time on these verses. God tells Balaam he could go, but then he's angry when he does go. God even sends an angel to kill Balaam if he proceeds any further. Balaam ass first sees the angel with a sword in his hand blocking the way and would not pass. Later Balaam eyes are opened to see the angel also. What was Balaam doing wrong? I reread what the angel said that blocked his way.
"And the angel of the Lord said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me:" (Numbers 22:32)
The footnote for perverse is Stiffnecked.
I think of being stiffnecked as being prideful. Were the honors Balak offered Balaam putting his heart in the wrong place? Did Balaam think he could go, but in his heart he was open to the influence of being seduced by Balak? It all made me think of Joseph Smith when he tried to take the Golden Plates after being told by the angel Moroni where they were and to go find them. He uncovers them and while reaching in to take them out Moroni forbids him. This is part of what Moroni had earlier warned him about obtaining the plates..
"...Satan would try to tempt me,... to get the plates for the purpose of getting rich. This he forbade me, saying that I must have no other object in view in getting the plates but to glorify God, and must not be influenced by any other motive than that of building his kingdom; otherwise I could not get them."
(Doctrine & Covenants 1:46)
So after much pondering I think the problem for Balaam is where his heart was. The Lord wanted to make absolutely sure he would follow his directions to the letter. If not he would be destroyed. The experience of the angel with the sword blocking his way, reinforced the urgency of doing only God's will and not his own.