Summary: What to do when you find yourself walking outside of God's will for your life.
A farmer who wanted to sell his donkey. A potential buyer showed up and looked the animal over. He asked if he could hitch him up to the wagon and see how he worked. The farmer did so and climbed up into the wagon with the customer handing him the reins. The customer tapped the reins but the donkey didn’t move. He said, “Giddyup” but the donkey just stood there. He cried out “Ya Donkey” but it just looked straight ahead. The farmer got down off the wagon, picked up a two by four and hit the animal right between the eyes. While the donkey staggered the farmer got back up into the wagon and said, “Now try it.” The customer tapped the reins, the donkey moved out and the old farmer said, “He’s a good donkey, but sometimes you have to get his attention first.” Aren’t we like that sometimes? We say we want God’s guidance but often God has to first get our attention? Well, today we want to talk about the opposite scenario. A time where God used a donkey to get a man’s attention.
Num 22:21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. 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. 23 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, she turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat her to get her back on the road. 24 Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between two vineyards, with walls on both sides. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam's foot against it. So he beat her again. 26 Then the angel of the LORD moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam , and he was angry and beat her with his staff. 28 Then the LORD opened the donkey's mouth, and she said to Balaam , "What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?" 29 Balaam answered the donkey, "You have made a fool of me! If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now." 30 The donkey said to Balaam , "Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?" "No," he said. 31 Then the LORD opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown. 32 The angel of the LORD asked him, "Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her." 34 Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, "I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back."
Balaam was not a Jew but a foreigner. He was not a righteous man or a biblical prophet but a sorcerer, a sort of ancient seer or "witch doctor." He would use his powers to place curses on people for money. Religion was his business, not his life-style. Balak, The king of Moab had seen what the Israelites had done to the Amorites and was afraid. He wanted Balaam to use his powers to place a curse on Israel - hoping to conquer the people. Obviously, neither Balaam nor Balak had any idea who they were dealing with!
Balaam seemed to acknowledge that the God of the Israelites was indeed powerful but he did not worship. He was ready to accept Him as God, but not HIS god. Have you ever known anyone like that? They recognize who Jesus was and who God is, but only in an intellectual way. Balaam was ready to obey God’s command as long as he could profit from doing so. Although he realized the awesome power of Israel’s God, his heart was occupied with what he could get from his occupation.
Reading this story might lead us to believe he turned to God in the end, but later passages in the Bible show that Balaam couldn’t resist the tempting pull of money and idolatry. This mixture of motives - obedience and profit - eventually led to Balaam’s death.