Sometimes I need a talking donkey.
The story of Balaam is fascinating and mysterious. He was a man who knew God and had seen His mighty hand at work. God spoke to Balaam. But—Balaam messed up.
I can’t be too hard on Balaam, I mean, I’ve messed up a few things myself.
Balaam had a lucrative gift, he could bless or he could curse. When the king of Moab had a problem, he called on Balaam to curse his problem. The king promised money and great honor.
Balaam had a sweet job lined up—if God gave the okay.
God did not give the okay and Balaam sent the king’s men back to Moab.
The king sent an entourage a second time to plead with Balaam to come. And again, Balaam waited for God to speak.
And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men come to call you, rise and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you—that you shall do.”
Great! It was a go…or was it?
The next morning Balaam got up, saddled his donkey, and went to the men from Moab. Things would not go as planned.
The Lord had not told Balaam to go. He told Balaam IF the men CAME for him, then he could go, but say only what the Lord instructed him. I think this was a case of putting the cart before the horse…or the donkey.
Balaam was eager for the money and honor promised him. He ignored the prerequisite God had laid out for his going and couldn’t get that donkey saddled quick enough.
God did not take that lightly. The Angel of the Lord went ahead of Balaam and stood in the road with his sword drawn to oppose him. But Balaam’s mind was on the profit awaiting him and he didn’t see the Angel. But the donkey did, and she turned away and walked into a field.
Now, anyone who knows me knows how much I love animals. So I get a little upset with Balaam here. He beat his donkey to get her back on the road.
The Angel of the Lord moved further ahead to a narrow passage between the vineyards with a wall on either side. Again Balaam’s donkey saw the angel, but I assume she didn’t want to be beat again. She tried to pass by the angel, but crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall. That poor little donkey couldn’t win, and once more, Balaam beat her.
For a third time the Angel moved ahead to a passage so narrow there was no way for the donkey to move to the left or to the right. Can you imagine her frustration? She’s already tried twice to keep this guy from the sword of the Lord, and all he does is beat her!
As I read this story, in my mind I’m thinking for the donkey, “Okay dude, I tried, you’re on your own. I’m going to lie down right where I am.”
And that’s just what she did. Balaam’s anger was so provoked he beat the donkey with his staff.
Here’s where the story gets fun.
Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” Numbers 22:28
In his anger Balaam said to the donkey:
“Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!” Numbers 22:29
I have to stop for a moment. As my son and I read this scripture, when we reached this point he said, “Whoa! Balaam just talks back to the donkey? No pause for surprise? No shock that the donkey is talking? Just, hey donkey I could kill you”?
Who wouldn’t be aghast? If I heard a donkey talk, I think I would at least have a moment of bewilderment. But, on with the story.
Balaam’s donkey answered him:
“…Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?” Numbers 22:30
Bless her heart. Balaam had only one word for her:
“No.” Numbers 22:30
At the moment of Balaam’s self-awareness, God opened his eyes. He saw the Angel of the Lord and fell face-down. Then the angel said:
“Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before me. The donkey saw me and turned aside from me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live.” Numbers 22:32,33
The donkey gets justice!
Balaam moved forward independent of God’s direction. It took a talking donkey to wake him from his own ambition. He confessed his sin and repented.
Sound familiar? Many times in my life I’ve stepped ahead of God only to step into a mess. Waiting for God is difficult. It’s easy to talk myself into moving ahead of Him. I tell myself that He’s left me behind and get caught up in the pace of my own madness.
A talking donkey. Yes Lord, sometimes I need a talking donkey.
Have you ever gotten ahead of God?