Summary: Don’t Worry, its not what you think. The Biblical (KJV) word for donkey is often a synonym for a fool. But as we will find, Balaam’s talking donkey was more wise than he was, and wiser than some we may meet.
When God Spoke Through An Ass Joshua 13:22, Num 22:21-35
How would you feel if an animal spoke to you? The story is told of a man who bought a beautiful, exotic, tropical parrot from a local pet store. The pet store owner said that the parrot could talk and after demonstrating a few sentences the customer was impressed so he bought him and took him home. Except the only time the parrot would speak, he would only use abusive language with his new owner. The owner said, “Bird, if I ever hear you talk like that again, I’m going to lock you in the freezer!.” This threat still had no effect, so the owner backed up his threat and locked the parrot in the deep freeze for about an hour. When the bird was nearly frozen, the owner went back to the freezer, removed the vulgar bird, and said, “Have you learned your lesson?” The parrot was shivering so bad he could barely speak, but asked, “Yes I promise I won’t say any more bad words, but I have a question?” The parrot asked, “I would like to know one thing, what did the turkey say?”
Animals don’t usually speak, except of course in fantasyland. But there are some exceptions to this. One is associated with the man who is mentioned in our text in Joshua. Today we are going to learn about one that did, only it wasn’t fantasy it was real. And it wasn’t a bird that spoke, it was a donkey. And it wasn’t the animal who was speaking profanities, it was its owner. We usually think of donkeys as dumb, stupid, or just down right stubborn. Turns out that this donkey’s IQ was way higher than her owner.
Now here in our text, in Joshua 13:22, we read about the demise of the talking-donkey’s owner, Balaam. This is what happens to a man who sets himself up against God and his people, and what happens to a man whose vision is impaired against the things of God. And eventually God caught up with him through Joshua and is killed. But to read about what happened we go back to our Scripture text in Numbers 22. Speaking of bad words, I don’t mean to sound crass or cute, but the title of my message today is when “God Spoke Through an Ass.” It’s a King James Version word for a species of animal that we don’t use much in our vocabulary anymore, because of the obvious connotation. But its not even the same word that we use as a vulgar epithet. And that is too bad, because, its also a more accurate description than the word that we use today. Turn to Numbers 22:21-35.
I. The Real “Ass” of the Story. (Read vs. 21) But there is no doubt who the real ass is in this story. Now Balaam is an interesting character. He is characterized as the son of Beor, the grandson of an Edomite king. Balaam is what we call a “seer”, a pagan prophet for profit, hired out by Balak, the king of the Moabites. He was a very influential sorcerer who, although aware of the true God, made his services available on a freelance basis. The Moabites know that Israel is coming through their land and is going to one day conquer it. So the king hires Balaam to curse Israel as they passed by. What’s strange is that at first Balaam appears to us as very godly, and very noble. In vs. 18 he even says, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the Lord my God to do less or more.” Here in this verse, Balaam is speaking as though he were a follower of the God of the Hebrews! He even says he has a word from God come to him that night telling him not to curse Israel, but speak only what He tells him to.” Yet he goes on and does what God tells him not to do. Now I find this is very interesting. But it goes on more than you would think. They give the pretense that they are following God and affirming His love, when in fact they are really worshipping at the altar of public morality and worldly-mindedness. In fact we are told in 2 Peter 2:15-16 about those who “have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. 16But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—a beast without speech—who spoke with a man’s voice and restrained the prophet’s madness. These are the ones who are more concerned about their popularity and their paycheck than they are about the God who called them to speak. Speaking of leaving the “straight” way, Dr. H. Stephen Shoemaker, Myers Park Baptist Church presented his chairman of deacons, a female, and a lesbian before us pleading with us that we should accept them and seat them at the NC Baptist State Convention. Overwhelmingly, we voted not seat them- not because we did not love them, but because we loved God more.