“And Balaam answered and said unto the servant 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.” (Num. 22:18)
But he did, of course, go “beyond the word of the Lord,” that is. God had already told Balaam in no uncertain terms not to go with the men of Balak, king of Moab. And he sent word that he wouldn’t go—at first; yet he relented later, for one reason or another. It may have been a thing of money, since that’s what he mentions in verse eighteen. I don’t know. I do know he was right when he said it’s possible to disobey a direct command from God by either coming short of, or going beyond it. And one is as bad as the other.
There are those among us who soft-soap definite breaches of Divine mandates laid down in both the Old and New Testaments, by insisting that the grace of God overlooks sin, especially weaknesses of the flesh. Lying, stealing, murder, fornication and adultery, etc., may have mitigating circumstances under civil law, but they do not under Divine. Matthew Henry said of such audacity: “It is a very great affront to God, and a certain evidence of the dominion of corruption in the heart, to beg leave to sin.” As children of God, it’s important to remember that sins such as those mentioned have to be recognized, judged, and put away, if we expect to receive forgiveness. To do less is to receive less.
On the other hand, some people go beyond the Word of God by doing—or expecting—more. It’s one thing to allow the Spirit of God to apply the Word to our own lives in a singular way. It’s quite another, however, to assume this constitutes a pattern for other believers. My older son once told me of a dear saint who could not see how others were able to do something that she herself felt so strongly to be wrong. When he pointed out that the Bible no where condemned this action, she replied, plaintively, “Yes, but don’t you think we should have a higher standard?” Of course, my son’s response was, “Dear lady, there is no higher standard.” When you and I put our own interpretation on the same plane with Divine inspiration, we go “beyond the word of the Lord.” Especially when it comes to questionable things.
Both of these extremes indicate a presumption of superiority. “God has spoken, but He didn’t really mean it,” says the one extreme. “God has spoken, but He didn’t say enough,” says the other. Either way, we’re going “beyond the word of the Lord.” And Balaam’s sad story shows us what comes of it.
If you will take the Bible as it is, it will meet you where you are.