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Landscape with Balaam (Joseph Anton Koch 1832/36) – German National Museum, Nürnberg

With compromising here I meant the temptation to mix the spirits in order to please people or ourselves more than God. In other words, God has told us to do something, but we begin to wonder after some time whether He might have changed His mind regarding the commandment once given. If God has shown us a certain direction we should walk in, we can be sure that He had good reasons why He led us that way. Whether we understand His guidance or not, it is always also for our spiritual protection if He warns us and tells us not to move along a way we might have chosen on our own. We read in the Book of Numbers,

“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Num 23:19 ESV)

Balaam who was a prophet of the Lord faced this very temptation I mentioned above. Balak, the king of the Moabites felt threatened by the people of Israel and therefore commanded Balaam to curse them for him. In return, Balak promised to honor Balaam if he obeyed his command. To make a long story short, Balaam asked the Lord for His leading and God told him not to curse His people because He had decided to bless them. Furthermore, God did not want Balaam to join those people Balak had sent to bring the prophet to the king of Moab.

However, Balak who did not like that prophecy as he wanted to have the Israelites removed from his territory did not give up on his original plan. Therefore he tempted Balaam even three times to do what God did not want by offering Balaam a worldly reward for resisting God. Not with these words, though, but in effect. It seems that Balaam was wavering as to His obedience toward God since he decided to go with those people back to Balak although God had told him to not do it. For this very reason God got angry with Balaam and sent His angel to cut the prophet off his wrong path.

Doesn’t this story remind us of the pattern Satan also used to tempt Jesus in the wilderness after our Lord’s baptism in the river of Jordan? This pattern of promising this-worldly rewards for disobeying God’s commandments has always been the same. Whenever God draws us close to His heart and shares His will with us, the devil sneaks in to pull us down on a lower level where he still is king as the prince of this world. Alas, when the enemy has us under his control again, we cannot clearly discern the voice of God in our lives any longer. Everything we might hear then becomes a mix, a blend of spirits, which makes it very difficult for us to cut through that cloud of confusion.

To give my musings a more personal touch, I want to share my own experiences with you. It was on Wednesday this week as I had a vision while praying in the morning. In this vision I found myself walking through a long and gray corridor that reminded me of the former header of my blog (i.e., the Château Theme). That corridor had been located in a castle. It was a tedious walk although I felt the Lord’s presence behind me. At the end of the corridor there was an open entrance to a darker room on a lower level. I stopped there, looked inside, and feeling repelled by what I saw, I told the Lord, I do not want to enter.” That room strongly reminded me of the German National Museum in Nürnberg (three of these pictures posted on here were taken by me there in 2017). Casting a glance around, I saw several glassboxes with precious objects that were illuminated from above while the rest of the room remained in darkness.

But the Lord told me to go downstairs anyway. Reluctantly I did, but after a few steps I stopped abruptly. It was as if I could hardly breathe any more and I also started to sense a heavy burden on my heart that seemed to weigh down on me. I turned to Jesus and asked for an exit out of this stifling chamber. Suddenly a door to my left opened, which made me wonder at first, because the left side usually represents the flesh. Anyway, I left quickly, being able to really breathe in and out again while enjoying the bright light and freedom of the Kingdom of God. Although I saw shining landscapes with mountains, waters, and seashores in this tranquility which belongs to the Kingdom of Heaven, something seemed to be wrong, still. But what was it?  🙄

For some reason I could not fully enjoy His rest by walking in the spirit. Instead, as I tried to leave that darker area more and more behind me, I saw that it was not possible at all! As I turned around, I realized that Jesus was not there any longer, either. However, that museum seemed to somehow stick to my back! Even running away would not have helped. Unfortunately, I could not get rid of this haunting atmosphere that was following me wherever I turned. Hmm…  🙄 Asking the Lord for help, He told me to go back to that room I hated and to rather choose the midmost path through that hall. I followed His advice and very quickly He pulled me through that dark area to an exit straight ahead of the former entrance. Again, I saw those shining landscapes. But this time I could enjoy it and leave the darkness behind me.

German National Museum, Nürnberg (2017)

The vision was longer than I described here. Yet I think this part is enough to understand its experiential interpretation that now follows. After the vision God told me that a particular person would call me in the morning. I was not happy about it since that person, driven by their own fears, tries to get others under their control. Almost a half year ago Jesus helped me for the first time in my life to resist that controlling spirit behind that person after decades of me caving in due to my people pleaser mentality (I wrote about it here). Although God never took that strength to resist that evil spirit away, I always depend on His leading. It is not so that God says, “You must never meet this person again” or “You should always love so-and-so whenever they need your help.” No, that would not be walking by the Spirit of God. From hence, I was not yet sure what to expect on that very day.

After a certain time of doing the housework, the phone suddenly rang. I automatically “knew” who it was and asked for God’s guidance. He told me before what that person really wanted to share with me would not be what I’d find recorded on tape. In fact, He told me the opposite of what I heard spoken on the answering machine. It seemed that they expected me to return the call as soon as I had time to do so. In the past I always felt pressured to hear such a ‘hidden command’ because I had no ‘apology’ as soon as I had time to really call them back, so to say. It was about half an hour later when the phone rang again. Jesus pointed out that it was the same person (which was truly the case as I realized by checking the display of the phone). He also asked me, “Do you want to talk with them?” to which I answered, “Nooo, of course not!!”

Indeed, I ignored that call as well because I felt God’s pleasure and peace to do so. At the same time God started to explain the vision to me. That dark chamber of the museum represented the flesh, our soul with all its focus on dead objects of the past. The spotlight targeted, for instance, at this beautiful vessel in turquoise and golden you can see in the picture above, equals our mind’s focus on everything apart from God that has no real life in itself. Even though that which we behold with our mind’s eye might look beautiful initially, our soulish focus will never be able to reach the Holy Spirit’s realm on its own. What I had often tried in the past, though, and that was God’s warning for me in that vision, was that I shared other persons’ burdens, fears, and worries of my own volition. But alas, I had opened up my very heart to them without God having told me to do so at that time. Afterwards when I found myself captured by the wrong spirits that kept attacking me, I tried to leave the darkness that was full of fears, anger, and worries again on my own by choosing the left side, that is, the flesh, in order to draw those suffering people to the Kingdom of God myself at that!

To cut another long story short, I needed no apology whatsoever for not returning any of those (eventually more than two) calls since God by His grace enabled me to admit later that I had been at home while the first calls came in. The Holy Spirit also reminded me once again that I could always benefit from His protection through the whole armor of God when I obey Him. In return, God told me to be absolutely honest and transparent when anyone asks me why I behave that way and no other. Whether other people understand my behavior or not does not matter at that moment. However, doesn’t it seem to be for the glory of God if we willingly follow His commands? Maybe, it is even a sort of ‘proof’ for this world that God really exists. On the other hand, if we disobey God, He needs to make us aware of our failure by at least some turmoil in our inward man. In Balaam’s case God even sent His angel with a sword to cut the prophet off while he kept walking after the flesh. If Balaam had not listened to God, the angel would have killed him. As much as we might appreciate God’s grace, we might also see our responsibilty to obey the One who called and saved us because

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (Jn 3:36 ESV)

“Soli Deo Gloria et Sanctum Nomen Eius” (lat.) – All Glory to God and His Holy Name (German National Museum, Nürnberg 2017)

All images © Susanne Schuberth 2017/2021