Num. 22:18-35. Balaam’s donkey saves his life.
Num. 22:18-35. Balaam’s donkey saves his life.
Last we left our story, Balaam was making a decision. Balaam was a prophet of God…but he wasn’t a good one. You see, Balaam had a problem…and his problem was that he liked money. And I mean he REALLY liked money. And when the Moabites offered Balaam a lot of money to curse the Israelites, Balaam wanted it. But, when he prayed about it, God had told him in no uncertain terms that he should not curse the Israelites. And so Balaam had reluctantly sent the Moabites (and their money) back to Moab. And that seemed to be that. But, the King of Moab, a man named Balak, wouldn’t take no for an answer. And instead Balak sent even more elders and princes to Balaam with the promise of tons of money…as much as Balaam could imagine. And Balaam could imagine a lot! So when all these elders and princes came knocking on Balaam’s door again, Balaam had a decision to make. He already knew what God’s will was on this…and he knew that he was not to curse the Israelites…and he knew that the best thing to do was to send the Moabites packing again. But boy…that was a lot of money. What was Balaam going to do?
Well, at first Balaam seemed to do the right thing, and he reluctantly said to the Moabites, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more.” (Num. 22:18 NKJV) Well, so far so good…Balaam was telling the Moabites that money didn’t matter…and that all he could do was what God told him to do. And the next thing to do was to send the Moabites on their way. But…instead of doing that, he invited them to stay the night again. And Balaam said to them, “Now therefore, please, you also stay here tonight, that I may know what more the Lord will say to me.” (20:19) Now Balaam already knew what the Lord was going to say to him. But…Balaam was really having a hard time saying no to all that money. Maybe…just maybe God would change His mind.
And that night God came to Balaam and said, “If the men come to call you, rise and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you—that you shall do.” (22:20) Ok…so maybe God was changing His mind after all? Well, maybe not. Because God had said that only if the Moabites come to Balaam again should Balaam go with them. But…when Balaam woke up…guess what…the Moabites were gone. Probably thinking that Balaam was just going to give the same answer as last time that he was just wasting their time, the Moabites had woken up before Balaam, left Balaam’s house, and started heading back to Moab. Now, when Balaam saw that the Moabites were gone…instead of taking that as God’s answer to not go with the Moabites…Balaam found two servants and his best donkey, saddled it, and set out as quickly as he could to catch up with the Moabites. Balaam was determined to get the money…even if God had technically told him not to go with the Moabites.
But not too long after leaving his home, something very very strange happened to Balaam. The Bible says that, “God's anger was aroused because he went, and the Angel of the LORD took His stand in the way as an adversary against him.” (22:22) Because Balaam had disobeyed God, God had sent an invisible angel with a sword in his hand to stand on the road to Moab. And if Balaam continued down this road…and continued against God’s will…Balaam would come across the invisible angel…and as soon as he did that, the angel was going to kill Balaam. Yikes. And so, of course, along came Balaam on his donkey rushing as fast as he could to catch up with the Moabites…totally unaware of the invisible danger that what was waiting for him along the way. And Balaam got closer…and closer…and CLOSER to the angel. But then…just as Balaam was about to get in range of the the invisible angel…the strangest thing happened. The Bible says that “the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand.” (22:23) Yah! Somehow, Balaam’s donkey saw the invisible angel. No one else could see the angel…not Balaam, not Balaam’s servants, not anyone else traveling along the road…just the donkey. And seeing this scary angel that looked like it was about to kill someone, what do you think the donkey did? Yah…the donkey got out of there! And the donkey turned off the road, and took Balaam way off into the field…as far away from the angel as possible as he could possibly get.
Now of course since Balaam didn’t see the angel, Balaam was super confused. As far as he could see, they’d been going down an empty road when all of a sudden, with no warning, his trusty donkey just randomly took off into the field…for no reason. What was going on? What is wrong with this donkey? And of course Balaam did what anyone else who lived at that time would have done…he began to hit the donkey. Come on donkey…back onto the path you crazy animal! And after some convincing, and probably after going in a wide circle around the scary angel, the frightened and beat up donkey finally made its way back onto the path. Well, that was strange. And no doubt Balaam wondered what in the world had gotten into his donkey.
But that wasn’t the end of it. The angel, not giving up on his mission, just went a little farther down the road and found a better spot. This time, the Bible says that the angel, “stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side” (22:24) With the walls on either side of the path, the donkey would not be able to get around the angel so easily this time. And not too long after the angel had picked his new spot, along came Balaam again on the donkey. And again the donkey saw the invisible angel standing in the path his sword drawn. And again the donkey tried to go around. But because the donkey didn’t have as much room to get around the angel this time, the Bible says that the donkey “pushed herself against the wall and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall.” (22:24) And Balaam was like…ow my foot! What is going on?? Why had the donkey randomly gone off the path again? And again he hit the donkey, and the frightened and beaten donkey again eventually make its way around the angel…probably making as wide of a circle around the angel as it could manage…and then went back onto the path.
But of course, the angel wasn’t going to give up. And this time the Bible says that the angel, “went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.” (22:26) The angel found an even better spot where the path was so narrow that the donkey had absolutely no way to get around him. This time, if Balaam continued on this path to Moab, Balaam would meet his end. And not too long after the angel had picked his new new spot, along came Balaam on the donkey. And this time, when the donkey saw the invisible angel, and saw that there was no way to get around him, the Bible says that the donkey, “lay down under Balaam.” (22:27) Seeing no way out of this, the donkey just gave up…and with Balaam still on her, the donkey just laid down in the middle of the path. There was nowhere else to go…and nothing else to do.
Now of course, Balaam was just beside himself. What is the deal with this donkey? First it randomly took him off way off the path into a field. Then it randomly crushed his foot against a wall. And now it’s just randomly laying down in the middle of the road and refusing to move! And so here was the famous Balaam, a world-renowned prophet, called by a great king to change the course of history and curse an entire nation…but the amazing Balaam couldn’t even get his donkey to stay on the road. And the Bible says that, “Balaam's anger was aroused, and he struck the donkey with his staff” (22:27) Balaam had had enough! And he was going to beat this donkey until it either did what he told it to do…or until it died.
And this is when the next strange thing happened. Right while Balaam was beating the donkey…right when Balaam was so angry that he couldn’t see straight, the Bible says that God, “opened the mouth of the donkey” (22:28) Yah…that’s right…the donkey started talking! Can you imagine a donkey talking! And what did the donkey say? Well, the donkey looked at Balaam, and said (and Papa’s going to use his best donkey voice here), “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” (22:28) It turns out that the donkey was confused. Maybe the donkey thought that Balaam could see the angel too…or maybe all donkeys see the invisible angels all the time…who knows. Whatever the reason, the donkey was confused and didn’t know why Balaam was beating her…and was basically asking Balaam…hey, what gives! And angry Balaam, who was apparently was so angry that he didn’t think it was strange that his donkey was talking to him, answered the donkey’s question and said, “Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!” (22:29)
Now of course, if anyone was abusing anyone else…it was Balaam abusing the donkey…not the donkey abusing Balaam…right? But be that as it may, the donkey didn’t argue with him on that…and instead the donkey asked Balaam a different question, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?” (22:30) So basically, the donkey was was like hey…haven’t I been a good donkey for you? Haven’t I served you faithfully all these years without any problems? And if yes, then why just assume that I am randomly causing you trouble? Maybe…just maybe…there is a reason for doing what I am doing? Did you ever think about that? And Balaam sheepishly answered, “No.” (22:30) No, now that Balaam thought about, it was true…the donkey had never done anything like this before. And naturally, Balaam would have started to wonder…well if the donkey did have a good reason for veering off the path…and for brushing against the wall…and for laying down in the road…what could that reason possibly be?
And just as Balaam was probably thinking about this, the Bible says that God, “opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the Angel of the LORD standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand” (22:31) So all of a sudden…out of nowhere…an angel appeared in front of Balaam…with sword drawn…looking like he was ready to kill him. Balaam was no doubt shocked. So this is what the donkey was seeing? Obviously shaken, Balaam fell down on the ground in front of the angel. And then the angel spoke up, said to Balaam, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before Me. (33) The donkey saw Me and turned aside from Me these three times. If she had not turned aside from Me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live.” (22:32-33) Wow. The truth about what Balaam was doing hit him like a ton of bricks. Balaam was heading to Moab against God’s Will, and he was going there to curse God’s people. When he thought about it…it really was a terrible thing that he was doing. It was to the point where this angel was telling him that it was “perverse”…meaning not just bad…but extremely bad. And Balaam realized that the angel was right. And not only that, but the angel had said that what he was doing was “perverse before Me”…meaning that this angel wasn’t just any angel…this angel was actually God. God Himself had come to stop Balaam. And if hadn’t been for the donkey, Balaam would be dead by now.
Now kidzos, let’s pause the story here for a second and think about this. How often are we like Balaam? How often do we set off on a path that we know God doesn’t want us to take? How often do we decide that we want to do something…even if technically God has told us…either through the Bible or some other way…that He doesn’t want us to do that? We’ve talked about this in a few episodes…haven’t we? And yah…we probably do it more often than we’d like to admit…don’t we? And you know what else kidzos, have you ever noticed that when we’re doing this…that God often put donkeys in our lives to try to keep us from going down the wrong path? Donkeys who maybe see more than we do…and who can maybe see the invisible danger lying on the path that we are stubbornly taking? Do you know who those donkeys are? Yah…their your parents. Your parents are the donkeys in your lives that are trying get you off that path. Their the ones who can see the danger that you can’t see. And they’re the ones who you get angry with when they stop you. So, next time you are tempted to get angry withy our parents for not letting you do this thing or that thing that you really want to do…remember Balaam…and do your best not to get angry with the donkey that is trying to save you.
Now seeing all this, of course Balaam wasn’t going to continue to Moab. I mean…all the money in the world wasn’t worth getting killed for, right? And so, he said to the Angel, “I have sinned, for I did not know You stood in the way against me. Now therefore, if it displeases You, I will turn back.” (22:34) But it seems that God had other plans. And the angel said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but only the word that I speak to you, that you shall speak.” (22:35) Since Balaam wanted to go to Moab so badly, God was going to let him…but…God was going to control what he said when he got there. Balaam would only be able to speak what God put into his mouth. And what was it that God would put in Balaam mouth? Had God changed His mind and was going to allow Balaam to curse the Israelites? Or was God going to get Balaam to curse the Moabites instead? Or would God do something else? Well…we will find out all about it…next time.