The passage about Balaam and his donkey in Numbers 22:21-41 is one of the most interesting and comical passages I’ve read in the Bible. I don’t know about you but a talking donkey was not something I was expecting! Despite the amusing fable-like scenario, the message behind this passage is quite serious and real. We not only learn that God can use anyone or anything to bless His people or carry out His plan, but there are a couple of other truths that this passage revealed, about who I want to be and where I want to be, that convicted my heart.
In this passage, God uses both a donkey, the lowliest of animals, and Balaam, a false prophet, to carry out His will. The BSF notes below provide a good parallel between these two figures to show that God can use two similarly unlikely characters to carry out His plan:
| ⇒Balaam pushed his donkey onward until God’s anger intervened.⇒God opened the donkey’s mouth to speak truth to Balaam.⇒The donkey’s human speech did not make the donkey truly human.
⇒The donkey was caught between the angel with his drawn sword and Balaam’s stick.
|⇒Balak pushed Balaam to curse Israel, but God repeatedly stopped him.⇒God opened the prophet’s mouth to speak God’s true blessing on Israel.⇒Balaam’s prophetic words did not make him a true prophet.
⇒Balaam was caught between the unchangeable will of God and Balak’s urging.
I thought it was noteworthy to highlight their differences as well:
|⇒The donkey was considered the lowliest of animals.⇒The donkey was able to see the angel because its eyes were focused ahead.⇒The donkey obeyed God despite Balaam’s beatings.
⇒The donkey was seeking to fulfill his God-given purpose.
| ⇒Balaam was revered by men as someone with the gift of prophecy.⇒Balaam was blind to the angel of the Lord because his eyes were focused on himself.⇒Balaam disobeyed God despite God’s warnings.
⇒Balaam was seeking to fulfill his selfish ambitions.
The fact that God used these two unlikely candidates for His glory makes me realize that God can use me as well, despite my feelings of inadequacy and fear of failure. This is because I’m not the one doing the work. It’s God’s power displayed in me. I’m reminded of Philippians 2:13, “…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
I would rather be considered the lowliest in the eyes of the world and follow God than receive men’s highest praise and not know God.
I also came away with two other revelations from this passage that have stuck with me. The angel of God says to Balaam in Numbers 22:33 (NRSV), “The donkey saw me, and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let it live.” The lowly donkey saw and obeyed God while supposedly wise Balaam failed to see and resisted God’s urgings. Balaam called his donkey a fool and yet it seems clear to me that the foolish one is Balaam. It made me realize that I would rather be considered the lowliest in the eyes of the world and follow God than receive men’s highest praise and not know God. Two passages come to mind. In Luke 9:25 (NLT) it says, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?” And in Philippians 3:8 Paul says, “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.”
We can always choose to accept God’s grace and turn back to Him. He will always take us back with open arms, but the road back is not an easy one.
Our BSF teaching leader also reminded us that God will let us go our reckless way if we insist on it. This was a sobering reminder for me. We have the freedom to choose to disobey Him. As we see in Balaam’s case, even as he witnesses God working in him and those around him, he still chooses to go against God. As we read later on in the Bible, it did not end well with Balaam. Unlike Balaam, we can always choose to accept God’s grace and turn back to Him. He will always take us back with open arms, but the road back is not an easy one. I speak from experience. If we genuinely want to turn away from our sinful ways, we need to go thru God’s refining fire. It requires the painful awareness of our sinful ways, discipline from God and complete surrender to His will, regardless of where it takes us.
Have a blessed rest of the week!
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