Don’t be Dumber that a Donkey

Numbers 22:10-35

 10 Balaam said to God, “Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent me this message: 11 ‘A people that has come out of Egypt covers the face of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me. Perhaps then I will be able to fight them and drive them away.’”

12 But God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.”

 13 The next morning Balaam got up and said to Balak’s officials, “Go back to your own country, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you.”

14 So the Moabite officials returned to Balak and said, “Balaam refused to come with us.”

15 Then Balak sent other officials, more numerous and more distinguished than the first. 16 They came to Balaam and said:

   “This is what Balak son of Zippor says: Do not let anything keep you from coming to me, 17 because I will reward you handsomely and do whatever you say. Come and put a curse on these people for me.”

18 But Balaam answered them, “Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the LORD my God. 19 Now spend the night here so that I can find out what else the LORD will tell me.”

20 That night God came to Balaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”

21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. 22 But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road.

 24 Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, it pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat the donkey again.

26 Then the angel of the LORD moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. 28 Then the LORD opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”

29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.”

30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”

   “No,” he said.

31 Then the LORD opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.

32 The angel of the LORD asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me.[a] 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.”

34 Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.”

35 The angel of the LORD said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.

Balaam’s first instinct was correct. Like most of us, we ask God what to do, and God plainly told him that he was not to go with them. What was great was he listened, at least until the prince threw some money at him. At that point he came to God like. “What’s it going to hurt just to talk with the man?” Trying to convince God he had it wrong to begin with. How many times do we do this same thing? We know what we are supposed to do, or not do, yet when we are faced with things we want, we start bargaining, or trying to change God’s mind. If God’s word is the truth, then it will always be the truth, and if his ways are right, then they will always be right. If he changes his mind, then what he said before was either wrong or a mistake. Neither of which does God do. When we try to convince God, what we really are doing is trying to convince ourselves that it is ok to break God’s commandment.

Balaam didn’t want to talk to the prince, nor did he want to curse Balaks enemies, all he wanted was the money. God told him not to, but Balaam started thinking about all the money he would get. It’s easy to sit and judge him for this. Why didn’t he listen to God? We do this everyday. It may not be as obvious, walking right past an elder that has dropped their groceries because you are late for a meeting, or not helping at Church because the game is on. How many times do we miss the chance to spread the love of God, because we want something else?

After Balaam is presented with more money, he goes back to God to try to change his mind. This is where I see a parent in God. Just like a father or mother, God tells him “I’ve already told you what I think, but if you think it is that important you can go.” God at this point is hoping Balaam does the right thing, and not go. Of course, just like we do, Balaam straps up his donkey and leaves. Just like you would be disappointed with your child for going against your wishes, God was not happy. God sent an angel to stop him. Balaam couldn’t see the angel because all he was thinking about was the money. His mind was in the world, not with God. The donkey, on the other hand, could see the angle, and didn’t want to die.

Balaam couldn’t see the big picture. Why was everything going wrong? Why is this donkey not cooperating? Have you ever set out to do something that you knew wasn’t really God’s will, and gotten mad when it didn’t work out? Why is this such a surprise to us? The donkey is considered one of the most stubborn animals, yet when faced with mortal danger, spiritual or worldly, it turns from it. We go head strong right into the middle of it. Most people think it is fun to “cheat death”. They get a thrill out of coming so close, and being brought back. I refer to activities like; skydiving, bungee jumping, swimming with sharks… These things have become accepted in today’s culture, and yet if one thing goes wrong, people die. We do this spiritually as well. We toy with the line, which is clearly drawn, and all the while convince ourselves we are at worst in the “Grey” area.

God finally sees that Balaam is not going to come to his senses on his own, so he lets the donkey talk. Now, I don’t know about you, but if a donkey started to talk, I would start running. Balaam was so far from God at this point, it took one of the most stubborn animals to show him that he was doomed. Don’t get so far from God that it takes a donkey to show you the way back. God then tells Balaam to go ahead and go, because Balaam had already given his word that he would. But God was going to do it his way. Luckily at this point, Balaam’s mind was fully on God again, and followed his word to the letter. Who wouldn’t after a talking donkey?

Balaam lost site of God because he wanted the money more. What makes you lose site? Is it going to take a donkey to stop you? Listen to God, not the world.