Out of the Mouth of Donkeys

GOD’s angel said to him (Balaam): “Why have you beaten your poor donkey these three times? I have come here to block your way because you’re getting way ahead of yourself. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she hadn’t, I would have killed you by this time, but not the donkey. I would have let her off.” Numbers 22:32-33 The Message

Reading through the Bible the other day, I had to pause at this scripture. Why would God block Balaam’s way when it appeared he did what God asked? And why would God make a donkey talk to get his message across to Balaam?

Sometimes the Bible is not clear. That’s when we need to dig deeper, go to commentaries, and rely on those more educated who have studied the scriptures, the people, and the times.

After doing so, it became clear that though Balaam’s outward actions appeared to be honoring God’s requests, his inside motivations were not. He was a Gentile prophet, a soothsayer who loved worldly things and would pronounce a curse on someone for money. He knew the right path and was often used by God, but chose to follow the lusts of this world more often.

I’ll back up and summarize the story. Balak, the King of Moab, had asked Balaam to curse the people of Israel because they were encroaching on his territory. The king was willing to pay big bucks, but Balaam said he must ask God first. God’s answer to Balaam. “Do not go with them (the men sent by the king.) And don’t curse the other—they are a blessed people.”

So Balaam obeys God, tells the men to go back home, and he won’t be going with them.

The king wasn’t satisfied, so he sent a more prestigious group of nobles to Balaam, I assume hoping to impress and sway Balaam’s decision. They were willing to pay a lavish price and do anything Balaam wished. Imagine the temptation!

Balaam’s response. “Even if Balak (the king) gave me his house stuffed with silver and gold, I wouldn’t be able to defy the orders of my God to do anything, whether big or little.” Then he offers them shelter and promises to ask God one more time in the morning. Hmm…could this be where he started to stray? Could the temptation have been too great?

God came to Balaam that night and told Balaam to go with these men, but made it clear that Balaam was to do and say “absolutely nothing” other than what God told him to. So Balaam got up, saddled his donkey, and somewhere along the journey “God’s anger flared.”

Seems an unjust response from God, doesn’t it? After all, Balaam did what God said and God still was angry, enough so that he sent an angel to block his path, but Balaam didn’t see it. The donkey he rode did and refused to continue on.

This scripture disturbed me on a couple of levels. What did Balaam do that was so wrong? Apparently he did something for God’s anger to flare, but it’s not spelled out in scripture, so I did a little digging.

Knowing that Balaam was a man who lusted after riches, I questioned his motivation for asking the second set of nobility to stay the night. Did he hope God would change his mind so he could accept the gold? Was he tempting faith by asking God again when the answer was clearly a NO, the first time? Was he dismissing God’s perfect will trying to negotiate a compromise?

Oh, how that reminds me of my own childrens’ attempts to get what they want through cajoling and wearing me down. And sadly, it reminds me of my own bargaining, begging, and whining to God when I do not get my way.

When I try to get ahead of his plan.

Unfortunately, it’s not hard to see the parallels between me and Balaam, sometimes preferring the things of this world to the divine plan of God. I’m guilty of getting ahead of God, of inviting things in my life to spend the night with the intentions of asking God about it one more time in the morning. I’m guilty of outwardly obeying God’s will while on the inside my heart was in rebellion and longing for something else.

I wonder how many times God’s anger burned when I strayed too far from the path? How many angels has he sent to block my way? How many more will come, and will I see them or will my journey be delayed by a stubborn donkey?

I don’t know all the answers, but it sure gives me a lot to think about.

How about you? Hear any talking donkey’s lately?

2 Responses to Out of the Mouth of Donkeys
  1. Alex Marestaing
    October 2, 2010 | 9:08 am

    I don’t know all the answers either, but that’s okay. I always figure God does. By the way, cool post!

  2. Gina Conroy
    October 2, 2010 | 3:59 pm

    Thanks, Alex. Yep, if we knew it all we wouldn’t need HIM!