I have the attention span of a 16 year kid BUT… (to be continued)

Read Numbers 22 and you will find one of the craziest stories in the Bible. It’s also one of my favorites… It’s about a man named Balaam and his talking donkey. (Folks – if you have ever said “I don’t like reading the Bible because it’s boring,” – you have not read it enough.) I’m going to talk about this in two parts… and the talking donkey won’t be til part 2! When a talking donkey doesn’t make the cut in the first part it tells you there’s a lot to take in!

This really is one my favorite stories from scripture – though it can be a bit confusing. This story runs parallel to Moses and the Israelites journey through the dessert and is just a couple of years before Moses’ death. The Israelite army is defeating kings and kingdoms on their journey to the promised land. A king named Balak is seeing what is coming his way and he decides to summon a “diviner” named Balaam who has the power to call down curses on people. Balak wants him to curse the Israelite army. Now it really is not known for certain what Balaam’s religion though he is most certainly not of jewish faith he proclaimed to follow YHWH and his “powers” were attributed to the one true God. You will read about him again a few times in the New Testament where we learn that whatever doctrine he originally followed – it became twisted. In 2 Peter 2:15 it says that he forsook the right way and had gone astray.

When Balak sent word that he wanted Balaam to call down a curse on the Israelites Balaam said he needed a night to pray about it. God’s answer was clearly “no” – you are not to curse them – they are my people. Balaam told Balak’s reps that unfortunately his answer had to be no.But they came back with even more people and even more promises of wealth – and even though he already had heard God’s answer he told them he would again sleep on it and see what God said.

Now I want to take some liberty here and pretend to know what God’s facial expression was at hearing Balaam tell these men that he would sleep on it again. I picture Him standing there, jaw agape, shaking His head and making that “uhh” sound that you have probably heard from a parent who can’t believe how stupid you could be at say the age of 16 or so. I get that picture because I saw it thousands of times as a teen myself…  In verse 18 Balaam tells Balak’s guys – “hey sorry – I really can’t go… even if you were to offer me – oh let’s say – all the gold and silver in his palace – I really can’t go… Buuuuuuuuttttt – you know what – hang out here tonight and I will double check.” That is hilarious to me… Nobody said a freaking word about a palace full of silver and gold! But Balaam is seeing how persistent these guys are and begins to realize – “Holy cow – this could be a SWEET deal! Lemme give it one more shot for permission guys!” Sound familiar? Man – it does to me. I could probably name 100 times that I knew the answer to something – but the thought of how good something was that I was going to miss made it worth it to me to ask over and over again!I think that God was probably saying “you have got to be kidding me” as this guy nods off. God speaks to Balaam in the night and says – “ok… go with them – but you better only be prepared to do what I tell you to do.” When he gets up the next morning – he jumps up, saddles his donkey and hits the road to Balak. The next verse essentially says – God Is P.O.d

That is one of the confusing things that you can run into in this scripture. God told him – OK, go and then when he goes – God gets angry. Why? We have to assume that Balaam’s intent, his desire for silver and gold is outweighing his willingness to listen to God’s full instruction. It’s obvious to God in that he only listened to this first part of God’s permission – “you can go.” He must not have listened to the “BUT only if you do exactly as I tell you!” God’s anger burns because Balaam is obivously going to do whatever he wants to do… (or so he thinks – part 2 will pick up the ending)

That is literally the story of my life. I find myself so many times only listening to God for the parts that I want to hear. Just like Balaam – I have an agenda already in my head every time I talk to God. God – here’s what I want, now what is your answer? I am usually pretty much already in motion as I wait for His answer.

When I was a kid it was the same thing with my mom. “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom? Mom?! MOM?!?!” Deep breath… then “Can I have this, this, this, this and have the keys to the car, and go with my friends to do this, this, this, this?” No matter the conversation that developed from this request – I was really listening only for that 1 little 3 letter word. “Blah, blah, blah, blahhh, blahh, YES, blahhhhhhhhhh.” That’s what I heard because I was a stupid, egocentric teenager with no care for anyone or anything unless it revolved around me and my comfort and desires. Essentially – when it comes to my relationship with God – I am still that same stupid, egocentric teenager. “God. Can I have <this>?” … “Yes, but only if blahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”

No matter how good something might sound – God will always give us the straight dope on it. He will never lead us astray. He will always have our best interests in mind.

But then there is that slippery, tricky thing called free will. It’s a wonderful gift from God because it means we aren’t little pre-programmed robots but it can certainly get us in to trouble. He will always give us the direction and instruction He wants us to follow – but then it’s our choice whether we follow it. The rewards of following can be great but the consequences of ignoring it can be painful… A lesson I somehow have to relearn almost daily. {The rest in part 2 soon!}

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