I remember a conversation with someone several years ago. He wanted to know what my opinion was concerning how a local church should order its affairs. Actually, he wanted me to agree with him that our church should have "contemporary" music, a praise band, a youth group, and other organizational elements typical in the church growth movement. This brother introduced his comments with a statement to the effect that "the church is dying." I think my response startled this man. I agreed with him wholeheartedly that the church was dying and that it had been dying since at least the mid nineteenth century (over a hundred years before our local church was founded) when Christians in this country started proclaiming a self-mediated Christianity, a religion which strikes me as being profoundly man-centered rather than God-centered. Thus, I told him, if we wanted to show ourselves to the community as a life-changing relevant fellowship we should self-consciously avoid all the bells and whistles he was looking for. We should rather be radically distinctive in our dedication to and proclamation of God's all-sufficient Word, Jesus Christ, who cut through all of our silly felt needs and died at the hands of sinful man to resolve our real problem, sin.
What does this have to do with our reading in Numbers today? See what Balaam, the pagan who is visited by God, says and does. When confronted by the Lord he has no recourse except to proclaim what is good and right, the blessing of God upon His people. Likewise, even we who are driven and tossed by our culture, hearing all sorts of messages about what is relevant, what is the best business model for our church to follow, what will really reach people for Christ and bring them into a vital relationship with their personal Lord, even we, in a moment of obedience, may just manage to proclaim the Word of God in all its power. May the Lord use us to bring the words of life, the words of healing and redemption, the words of forgiveness to those around us. May we say what our Lord has told us, not what we were enticed to do by those in our world.