Balaam's Donkey

I have always loved this story from the Bible.  Because to me it shows how God can use anyone or anything to do His work.  Sometimes I get the impression that people think only "certain people" can be used by God.  But that is putting God in a pretty tiny place if you ask me. 

After reading this story my thoughts are, "if God can use this donkey, and even make it talk, then He can use anybody....and anything."  Sometimes we just have to be a little more aware.

The Angel and Balaam (Numbers 22:  22-35)

22 But God was angry because he was going, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him. 23 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand, the donkey turned off from the way and went into the field; but Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back into the way. 24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path of the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she pressed herself to the wall and pressed Balaam’s foot against the wall, so he struck her again. 26 The angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn to the right hand or the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam was angry and struck the donkey with his stick. 28 And the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 Then Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a mockery of me! If there had been a sword in my hand, I would have killed you by now.” 30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I ever been accustomed to do so to you?” And he said, “No.”
31 Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed [h]all the way to the ground. 32 The angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was [i]contrary to me. 33 But the donkey saw me and turned aside from me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, I would surely have killed you just now, and let her live.” 34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the way against me. Now then, if it is displeasing to you, I will turn back.” 35 But the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but you shall speak only the word which I [j]tell you.” So Balaam went along with the leaders of Balak.

Here are some other things I take away from this story:

*  Don't be so quick to judge someone you know and trust.
*  Sometimes things are happening out there that we don't see...but maybe someone else or something else does, and they are trying to tell us about it.
*  Look for ways God uses unique individuals and things to do His work.  One of my favorite stories I read recently on a blog I follow is written by a man named Chris Arnade (I'm going to talk more about him in a future blog post.)  But I loved the story of how he grew up Catholic but turned away from his faith and considers himself an atheist.  But, as he has built relationships with drug addicts and prostitutes in the Hunts Point area of the Bronx, he saw in them that their faith in God was their hope....what kept them going.  He said most of them had either a cross or a crucifix as part of their possessions.  Here is what he wrote about this...

They have their faith because what they believe in doesn't judge them. Who am I to tell them that what they believe is irrational? Who am I to tell them the one thing that gives them hope and allows them to find some beauty in an awful world is inconsistent? I cannot tell them that there is nothing beyond this physical life. It would be cruel and pointless.
In these last three years, out from behind my computers, I have been reminded that life is not rational and that everyone makes mistakes. Or, in Biblical terms, we are all sinners.
We are all sinners. On the streets the addicts, with their daily battles and proximity to death, have come to understand this viscerally. Many successful people don't. Their sense of entitlement and emotional distance has  numbed their understanding of our fallibility.
Soon I saw my atheism for what it is: an intellectual belief most accessible to those who have done well.
I look back at my 16-year-old self and see Preacher Man and his listeners differently. I look at the fragile women praying and see a mother working a minimum wage custodial job, trying to raise three children alone. Her children's father off drunk somewhere. I look at the teenager fingering a small cross and see a young woman, abused by a father addicted to whatever, trying to find some moments of peace. I see Preacher Man himself, living in a beat up shack without electricity, desperate to stay clean, desperate to make sense of a world that has given him little.
They found hope where they could.
*  When things happen in life that seem "inconvenient", maybe there is another reason other than the situation in an inconvenience to me.  I often have to remind myself that the world does not revolve around me, and that sometimes I need to look at the bigger picture if things are not going my way.  Maybe the inconvenience I'm upset about may just save my life.
*  And, if Balaam would have just listened to God and done what he said in the first place, that angel may have never shown up to kill him in the first place.  God speaks to us in a variety of ways, and if we learn to hear His voice, and do what He says, it can stop a lot of problems. 
So, there is my take on Balaam's Donkey, and his claim to fame in the book of Numbers. 
And this cartoon below, I just thought it was funny.

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