I read the account of Balak, Balaam, and a talking donkey this morning.
Balak was king of Moab, and when Israel “camped in the plains of Moab” ~ Numbers 22:1, he “saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. So Moab was in great fear because of the people, for they were numerous; and Moab was in dread of the sons of Israel.” ~ Numbers 22:2-3.
Balaam was a well-known prophet “for hire”. The elders of Moab approached Balaam, “And he said to them, ‘Spend the night here, and I will bring word back to you as the LORD may speak to me.’ And the leaders of Moab stayed with Balaam. Then God came to Balaam and said, ‘Who are these men with you?’ And Balaam said to God, ‘Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent word to me, ‘Behold, there is a people who came out of Egypt and they cover the surface of the land; now come, curse them for me; perhaps I may be able to fight against them, and drive them out.” And God said to Balaam, ‘Do not go with them; you shall not curse the people; for they are blessed.’ So Balaam arose in the morning and said to Balak’s leaders, ‘Go back to your land, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you.'” ~ Numbers 22:8-13
Balaam knew, and spoke with, the one True God. And he listened and obeyed. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.
Balak pressed the issue with Balaam, again sending “leaders, more numerous and more distinguished than the former” ~ Numbers 22:15. He offered riches. Balaam responded nobly, “‘Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the command of the LORD my God.'” ~ Numbers 22:18. However…
Balaam asked God again if he could go.
When God closes a door to us and clearly says no, we need to realize He has a very good reason and plan, and we need to respect and obey Him and His wisdom. Don’t keep pushing!
God “said to him, ‘If the men have come to call you, rise up and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you shall you do.’ So Balaam arose in the morning, and saddled his donkey, and went with the leaders of Moab.” ~ Numbers 22:20-21
Only a donkey saved Balaam from paying the ultimate price for pressing this issue with God!
“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…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. 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. 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. And 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. 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. 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?'” ~ Numbers 22:22a, 23-28
This always sounds to me like Narnia, with talking animals. 🙂 (In Revelation 5:13, we are told the animals will speak in praise of their Creator- I can hardly wait to hear that!)
What is astonishing is that Balaam didn’t seem surprised by his talking donkey, but instead he yelled at her and told her he wanted to kill her! She reminded him that she had served him well all of her life.
“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 all the way to the ground. And 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 contrary to me. 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.'” ~ Numbers 22:31-33
Because the “angel of the LORD” didn’t correct Balaam when he bowed before him, this must have been God Himself. Oh, how I don’t want to make God that angry! We are so blessed to have Jesus interceding on our behalf, and the sons of Israel were spared many times when Moses interceded on their behalf. Balaam had a faithful donkey who helped spare him!
The story goes on. Balaam acknowledged that he had sinned and offered to return home. God instead had him continue the journey, and much to Balak’s dismay, in place of curses Balaam pronounced blessings three times on the sons of Israel (Numbers 24:10-11). In the end, we find out later (Numbers 31:16, Revelation 2:14) that since Balaam couldn’t curse the people, he advised Balak to seduce the Israelites with women and false gods. Balaam died by the sword of Israel (Numbers 31:8).
If we truly want to walk with God, we need to understand and obey His “No”. Even when we want to hear “Yes”. His way is always the best way.