I’m reading the book of Numbers again, struck afresh by the humor, oddity, and warning found in the story of Balaam. Here’s what was going on way back when…
The Moabites were afraid of the Israelites. Balak the King summoned Balaam the Prophet, saying, “Come and curse these dangerous folks. They’re numerous and far too powerful for me. I’ll pay handsomely!”
Wisely, Balaam asked God about this deal and heard, “Oh, no you don’t. These are my blessed people, and you must not put a curse on them!”
When Balaam conveyed his response to the Moabites, they begged him anyway, promising more money. Balaam, wise once again, answered, “Your king could give me his whole palace filled with silver and gold, and I still couldn’t do anything that went against my Lord’s command.”
Eventually God told Balak to go ahead and go with those begging Moabites, but to be careful to do only what he, the Lord, commanded. Balak headed out the next morning, traveling by donkey. An angel, armed with a sword and visible only to the donkey, blocked the way. What follows is the best part of the story.
- The donkey stopped walking.
- Balaam beat the donkey.
- The scene repeated two more times.
- Then the donkey talked!
The beast of burden said, “What have I ever done to you? Why would you beat me three times?”
- Did Balaam gasp in utter amazement? No.
- Did he get on his knees and ask the Lord what in the world was going on? No.
- Did he argue with the donkey? (Surely not!) Yes, that’s exactly what he did.
At that poing God finally let Balaam see the armed angel, gave Balaam instructions and allowed him to proceed. When the time came to pronounce a curse, Balaam blessed Israel instead (three times, in fact). Balak the King was plenty angry, but all the obedient prophet had to say to him was, “Must I not speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?”
Look for the lessons in this crazy chapter:
- Nothing is too hard for the Lord.
- Obey God’s instructions, no matter how hard the pressure to do otherwise might be.
- The Bible is not boring!
Do you have a favorite Old Testament passage? If so, I hope you’ll share it with me!