In Numbers 22 we hit one of the funniest stories in the Bible. It’s the story of Balaam and his talking donkey. I promise, I’m not going to use this as a chance to throw around the other words for donkey every chance I get. The eternal junior high boy inside of me really wants to, but for the sake of this conversation, I’ll drop it. Sigh….
Anyway, the story goes that Balaam is a prophet hired by a king to come and curse the Hebrews. The king wants them cursed so that he can fight them and kill them. So, he tries to hire Balaam to come curse them. God tells Balaam no. Balaam tells the king no. End of story. Right? Nope. The king sends more important guys back with even more money to try and get him to come. Balaam knows the answer is still no. But he tells the guys to stay the night, he will ask God again. God tells him if the messengers ask again, then he can go with them, but can only speak what God tells him. So, instead of waiting, he gets up and takes off. This ticks God off.
God sends an angel to stop him. His donkey that he’s riding sees the angel, he doesn’t. A crazy, sit com scene follows with the donkey stopping because it sees the angel, and Balaam getting mad like a fool. Finally, he sees the angel as well and gets turned around.
There are a TON of stories about Balaam and his talking, uh….err….donkey. I’ve taught em. But my question today came out of the middle of the story. Here’s the text:
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.
Why did God get mad? I looked around and read some ideas. Some were solid. Some were, well, very not solid. Wow. I’ll let you decide where my ideas fall on that list.
Balaam is given an offer to do a ministry (prophecy) and God says no, because these people are blessed.
His answer is that God said “no” so he can’t come. He sounds like a seven year boy explaining to his friend why he can’t come over.
When they come back, he doesn’t just say no. He says he’s only allowed to do what God tells him. Do you notice that shift? He’s not really being truthful. He’s trying to “obey” AND keep the door open for the money.
“Hang around and I’ll ask again.” Why does he need to ask again? God hasn’t changed his mind. He’s obeying in action, but not in his heart.
So God tells him ok, if they ask again, you can go. But God isn’t going to have them ask again. He’s going to close the door once and for all.
So Balaam jumps out in front of God’s plan and takes off BEFORE they have a chance to ask again.
There it is.
There is me in this story. I’ve never had a donkey talk to me. (Again, I’m ignoring the junior high boy yelling inside of me right now.) But I have had God say “no”, I’ve tried to bargain with him, and then weaseled my way to get what I want.
It always leads down a path to a very scary place.
God always has to show up in power and turn me around.
I am Balaam.