NUMBERS 22-24: BALAAM AND HIS TRUSTY STEED
Photo by Steve Troughton
THE MOST HILARIOUS STORY IN THE BIBLE
This could quite be the most hilarious event recorded in the Bible with God using a donkey of all things to speak up and show Balaam his stubborn ways. It's also a story of how the temptations of personal gains will blind us from what God is trying to do and use us for His long term plan. Could it also be a story about the way God works in very unexpected ways? Let's get into it.
Balak is the king of Moab and is absolutely terrified of the Israelites. Over 600,000 Israelites, not including the Levites, have just conquered the Amorites and this is not good news for King Balak and the people of Moab. Fear is spreading throughout Moab. King Balak, not knowing who he is up against, wants to hire a sorcerer to curse Israel. Enter Balaam. Balaam knows the God of Israel but is also a very well known sorcerer. ". . . for I know that whomever you bless is blessed, and whomever you curse is cursed" (Numbers 22:6).
Sorcerers in that time were believed to have worked with gods to curse and bless people. King Balak thinks that Balaam can use some magic to have the God of Israel turn against his own people. Sorry fellas but that's just not how this is going to work. Balaam listens to the God of Israel and refuses to go with the elders from Moab and Midian that were sent by King Balak. King Balak returns with a mighty offer that Balaam describes as, "Balak's house full of silver and gold." That's a really tempting offer but Balaam refuses again. Balaam is going to stand with God. God instructs Balaam to go but to only do as God commands Balaam to do.
Why does God get so angry for Balaam going when that's exactly what God told him to do? Is Balaam blinded by the personal gains that he will receive from King Balak? Maybe, but in the process we get the most hilarious event ever recorded in the Bible. Balaam and his trusty steed head off to Moab but on the way God is trying to get through to Balaam to do as he commands. Balaam is so tempted that he doesn't see an angel standing in the road with a sword in hand but Balaam's donkey sure does. Three times the angel stands in the way of Balaam and his donkey, and each time the donkey tries to avoid the angel, then each time Balaam strikes the donkey. That does it. On the third strike, Balaam is out as far as the donkey is concerned. The donkey lays down with Balaam still sitting on top of him.
28 Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me! I wish I had a sword in my hand! I would kill you right now!” 30 But the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I been in the habit of treating you this way?” And he said, “No.”
Wait . . . what??? What is this, Shrek? Balaam without skipping a beat responds back to this animal that is speaking! At first this is insane but how many of ya'll talk to your pets and have full on conversations with them as if they're talking back and you know what they're saying? This might not be as weird as we think, but it's really funny!
God had to use a donkey to get through to Balaam and open his eyes. Balaam's temptation of riches and greed were blinding him away from God. How quickly do we get wrapped up in temporary satisfaction? Tempted with a temporary high from getting a payday even if we have to do something sinful to get it?
In our lives we deal with the temporary pleasure that sin brings us. We deal with temporary pleasures of the next drink, high, social media notification, lusts, and other immoralities. They blind us from God's everlasting plan to bless us. Sometimes like Balaam we use God as our excuse to fill our temporary sinful satisfaction. What is blinding you from God's long term blessing for you? Is it work? School? Your phone? Money? Sex? Drugs? Alcohol? Whatever it is, it's not bigger than the God of Israel. I challenge and encourage you to seek out help. Sometimes it might even be from a donkey. Take a step towards everlasting satisfaction and accept the healing of your blindness in the temporary satisfactions that this world deceptively offers.
Lord, we pray for healing and guidance. Bring people in our lives that you will use to help us escape the avoidance and escapism the world tempts us to grab onto. Let us all encourage and uplift each other to know the everlasting satisfaction of the love and mercy that God showed us with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!
ON BALAAM AND HIS DONKEY
Four times King Balak tried to get Balaam to curse the Israelites in Numbers 23-24. All four times Balaam blessed them because Balaam could only say what the Lord commanded him. No matter what King Balak could offer Balaam, he wouldn't curse the Israelites. King Balak is getting more and more fed up with Balaam and eventually sent him on his way.
We know Balaam is killed during the Israelites battle with the Midianites (Numbers 31:8). He is also referenced in 2 Peter 2:15-16, "They have left the straight road and have gone astray, following the road of Balaam son of Bosor, who loved the wages of doing wrong, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet's madness." Also in Jude 1:11, "Woe to them! For they go the way of Cain, and abandon themselves to Balaam's error for the sake of gain, and perish in Korah's rebellion."
Nate is the youth minister at The Journey. He is from Florida, loves Florida State football and all sporting things, but he hates snow cones. He graduated from Oklahoma Christian University in 2014 with a Sports Management Degree.