So Numbers 22… When I left off – Balaam had decided to go with the king’s servants and hear his request for a curse to be called down on the Israelites. God gave him permission to go to the king but not to do anything outside of His will. Unfortunately – it seems that Balaam must have decided to do whatever was going to earn him some coin and God is ready to put an abrupt end to our man Balaam. And that’s where I pick this back up…
As I said last time – this is one crazy story. This is one of only 2 times in the Bible that an animal is given a voice. Other times animals are key parts of the story – i.e. Jonah and the great fish, Elisha sicking some bears on some kids who were taunting him (which hello! how helpful would this be in daily life??!!??), Noah sending out doves and ravens, Moses and the plagues, plus so many more – but only 2 times are they given voices. The first of course was the serpent in the garden – and the 2nd is here with Balaam’s donkey. (Side note – interestingly in the first story the animal was used by satan to destroy – and in this story the animal was used by God to save…)
As Balaam is traveling – God sends an angel to kill Balaam because he has gone or is going to go against God’s will. The angel waits on the road for Balaam to pass with the intention to cut his head off as he passes. Luckily for Balaam his donkey can see this angel and it does not want to go near him. The donkey 3 different times stops and won’t go forward… all 3 times the animal gets a beating because Balaam cannot understand what is wrong with the donkey. Then it happens – read Numbers 22: 28-29 and you will read what I think is potentially the best evidence available that our God has an amazing sense of humor. It says the donkey looks at Balaam and asks why are you beating me? And without a moment’s hesitation Balaam answers him saying because you made a fool of me. Seriously… I could write a whole post just about these few words they exchange – but think about this one thing right now… if you were beating an animal and it turned and spoke to you – would your first reaction be to speak back to it? I honestly cannot even imagine what my reaction would be – but I am most certain it would not be to just speak back. What kind of ice water did this guy have running through his veins?!?
Read the rest of this story in Numbers 22-23 – it’s awesome – but I am stopping with the donkey ride.
Now really – this donkey’s intervention was not just luck at all … Of course God was speaking through the donkey. God allowed the donkey to see the angel. God didn’t just kill Balaam straight out – he allowed room for grace and mercy. Balaam was spared – 3 times… by a donkey whose only reward was a beating.
I really love this story… Because I resonate with the character of Balaam. He too was someone who thought too highly of himself. He too was greedy. He too was certainly stubborn and hard-headed. He too was quick to anger. He too was disobedient to God. And he too needed to be taught some humility. In 2 Peter 2:16 it literally is pointed out that “wise” Balaam was rebuked by a dumb old donkey and shown how crazy he was really acting.
Are there any times in your life where a “donkey” showed up and saved you from your own foolishness? Did you feel humbled when you realized how dangerous the path you were on really was?
My journey out of stubbornness is long and treacherous. I seem to have a short memory for how dumb I can be and how full of wisdom God is because before I know it I am back on a dangerous path that would lead to destruction. Thankfully God’s mercy and grace also extends to an unlikely pastor in Cincinnati, Ohio who is most of the time in desperate need of a talking donkey.