When a donkey was more perceptive than a prophet

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One of the strangest stories in the Bible is found in the middle of the book of Numbers. A fearful king, Balak, tries to hire, Balaam, a prophet to come and curse the Israelites who are camped at the borders of his kingdom.  Balaam tells the king he can only speak what God moves him to say, but agrees to go, hoping for a rich reward for his ‘spiritual services!’

As he is traveling, the Lord stands in the road, but the man is oblivious to His presence. His donkey, however, sees the angel and three times tries to avoid Him.  When Balaam beats the poor animal, God opens her mouth and she tells him that the Lord is standing in the way!  (I told you it is a strange story.)

God allows Balaam to go to meet Balak but warns him not to ‘sell out’ when he speaks.  And, in the end, he ends up receiving inspired messages that bless Israel; not once, but three times, which enrages the king who hired him in the first place. Holding a high view of Scripture, we should not dismiss the story as nothing more than a legendary tale. The Spirit chose to tell us the story which takes up three chapters of Numbers and we do well to take the lessons that are included.

First among those lessons is one that Peter made in his letter. The apostle warns about using the Spirit’s gifts for personal profit. He tells us we must not “wander off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness.  But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—a beast without speech—who spoke with a man’s voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.”  (2 Peter 2:15)  When God’s Spirit moves in us, when prayers are answered, when others are encouraged by teaching or example, some will seek us out hoping to ‘buy’ the power of God. “I’ll you to bless me!” And it is short road to ruin when the matters of the Spirit are turned into things of commerce.

There is also a lesson about submission to the leading of the Lord. Balaam nearly lost his life for rushing off to make a buck before spending time to know what God wanted him to do. Once in Balak’s kingdom, a kind of farce develops. The first time Balaam stands looking over the Israelite encampment, the king waits to hear him bring a curse on the people and instead hears a prophecy of a powerful future for Israel. Dismayed, he asks the prophet to go to another place for a better view of the ‘threat.’  There, too, Balaam is moved by the Spirit to bless God’s people. The king won’t give up and sends his hired prophet to yet another place, where again the Lord moves the prophet to speak of God’s favor for His people.

When the Lord reveals His will to us, will we quickly agree, and in that ‘yes’ become aligned to His purpose? Or, will we press again and again, like a whiny child who wants his own way?  Will we continue to beg God to let us have what we want?

We nod in agreement when reminded that “He is God and we are not.” Yet, from my own experience, I am fully aware that just knowing that does not guarantee obedience. When we are convinced that we know better than God, we will resist, even if passively, God’s plan. The secret to humble surrender is full trust in the good and loving heart of our Father. It is a tragic thing to just ‘give up’ because God is too big to resist or because we fear His power. That kind of obedience robs us of the richness we can find on the journey. Let’s come expectantly to Him, living in the faith filled assurance that He plans for our ultimate best, and then we will  ‘keep step with the Spirit.’

Read Numbers 22-24. The story will make you wonder, laugh, and think! Will it be strange to our 21st century minds? Yes, it will. But, in those lines God teaches us that He is God, that His will prevails, and that He is merciful enough to let a donkey warn a prophet before he is killed.

Our word from the Word invites us to know His voice.  Jesus says, “I am the one who corrects and disciplines everyone I love. Be diligent and turn from your indifference. “Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends. I will invite everyone who is victorious to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne. Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” (Revelation 3:19-22, NLT)

______

Good, Good Father

(Casting Crowns sings a great song about God’s love)

I’ve heard a thousand stories
Of what they think You’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whisper
Of love in the dead of night
You tell me that You’re pleased
And that I’m never alone

 You’re a Good Good Father
It’s who You are
It’s who You are
It’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am
It’s who I am
It’s who I am

 I’ve seen many searching for answers
Far and wide
But I know we’re all searching for answers
Only You provide
Because You know just what we need
Before we say a word

 You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways to us

 Love so undeniable I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable I can hardly think
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
Into love love love

 Anthony Brown | Pat Barrett © 2014 Capitol CMG Paragon (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Common Hymnal Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Housefires Sounds (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

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