Quick quiz:

Q:  What’s the most ‘famous’ donkey in the Old Testament?  A:  Balaam’s talking donkey, who saw the angel of God with a drawn sword and saved her owner’s life three times.

Q:  What’s the most ‘famous’ donkey in the New Testament?  A:  It isn’t one Mary rode to Bethlehem. In fact, the Bible makes no reference to Mary riding a donkey. It’s the one which carried Jesus into Jerusalem prior to His crucifixion.

What, you may wonder, do a couple of donkeys referenced in Scripture have to do with our lives today? We’re so glad you asked!

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2 Timothy 3:16-17:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

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In Numbers chapter 22 we read how Balaam’s donkey was used by God to put some holy fear into a very ungodly man and overrode (pardon the pun) the man’s actual intention to curse the nation Israel.  But before we delve into a few of the details, let’s check out the owner of the donkey: Balaam.

When Israel at last prepared to enter the Promised Land, Balaam was living near the region of the Moabites, an idolatrous nation. They were afraid of Israel, having seen its unprecedented victory over the Amorites. Balaam’s reputation as a diviner was such that it was believed those he cursed would be cursed and those he blessed would be blessed. To that end, Balaam was sought by the king of Moab to speak a curse over Israel.

Balaam’s name in the Hebrew language derives from two words: ‘bela” (cursing) and “am” (a nation). It seems that cursing Israel was his destiny.

While Balaam had some knowledge of the Living God, he clearly had no heart for God or His people. He failed to send the Moabite king’s emissaries with their “fees for divination” packing; rather, he told them to hold over for the night with a commitment to let them know what the LORD (Living God) might speak to him.

God did speak to Balaam that night, emphatically: “Do not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” (Numbers 22:12)

Balaam got up the next morning and told the king’s messengers to go back to their land because “the LORD has refused to let mgo with you.”

Obviously, Balaam wanted to go in a role of prominence, enjoy monetary gain, and speak a curse over Israel.

The King of Moab’s next move was to send a larger, more distinguished group to Balaam with a promise of great honor and riches—whatever he wanted. Balaam, being charmed, stalled out. He said, in effect, “Hmmm… no matter what I’m offered, I can’t do anything contrary to the command of the LORD my God. But please, stick around and maybe the LORD will say something more!”

Balaam’s hypocritical seeking out of God a second time demonstrated his aversion to God’s earlier, clearly declared will. And the LORD wasn’t Balaam’s God as he purported; Balaam was a diviner in the occult world—it was his practice to seek omens (Numbers 22:7; 24:1).

The LORD responded to Balaam sternly, who nevertheless rose early the next day, riding off on his trusted donkey in the foolish hope of capitalizing on the wonders of Moabite riches without getting too terribly crosswise with whoever this God was.

So let’s pick up the script about that donkey ride:

“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. 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. 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?’

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.’ 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.’

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.”

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Balaam went on to bless Israel under the force of God rather than his preference to curse it. And despite the miraculous intervention of God in his life, Balaam later dies while fighting against Israel with Balak, the Moabite King (Numbers 31:8).  In 2 Peter 2:15, Balaam is described as one who loved the wages of unrighteousness. Jude 1:11 references the “error of Balaam” and Revelation 2:14 refers to “… the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.”

Balaam refused to learn anything from his episode with his supernaturally talking donkey. He failed to recall his own terror at seeing the sword-wielding angel of the LORD or surrender his life to Him. God likely warned Balaam for days through his bruised and/or broken foot (crushed during the infamous donkey ride) that a person can’t saddle up and go through life with one foot in God’s camp and the other in the world; we’re either for God, or against Him (Matthew 12:30).

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Even when we belong to God and have new life in Christ, we may be tempted to try having one foot in God’s camp and the other in the world.

We may hope God won’t mind our engagement, just once, in something contrary to His clearly declared Word.

Perhaps we’ve tried to make others think we have a closer relationship with God than we really do.

There may just be a little “Balaam” in all of us.

 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

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This, my friend, is why Jesus came riding on a colt donkey into Jerusalem. We are sin infected people in need of a Savior!

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Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophesies of the coming Savior-Messiah. He wasn’t summoned by an earthly king; He was sent by God (I John 4:9).

Jesus had every right to speak a curse over the human race, but where was He purposefully riding to?  His beatings and death on a cross on our behalf. Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:16-17).

Balaam hardened his heart during three opportunities to come to his senses. Jesus was tempted by Satan in three areas of critical import and, as fully God and fully man, He responded to those temptations in perfect holiness (Matthew 4:1-11).

Unlike Balaam’s donkey, the colt on which Jesus sat had never been ridden. Yet it calmly carried its Creator into Jerusalem (in the midst of a branch-waving, garment flapping, shouting crowd of joyful people). It could have spoken aloud to the glory of Jesus—as could the rocks, we read. But God permitted imperfect people to do that (Luke 19:40).

Like Balaam, many of the religious leaders in Jesus’ day had only a small form of sensitivity towards God (Matthew 15:7-8). Balaam viewed his donkey’s faithfulness as unfaithfulness and, likewise, the religious “elite” viewed Jesus’ faithfulness to God as unfaithfulness (John 10:32-33).

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These passages of Scripture aren’t clever little donkey tales. God’s word reminds us of our need for ongoing repentance and worship of the Faithful One, Jesus Christ. He meets us at our greatest point of need with the power to remove our Balaam-like tendencies (Ephesians 2:1-7; I John 1:9).

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Perhaps you’re afraid you’re forever destined to be a “Balaam”. Be encouraged: God is willing to gift anyone with eternal life in Jesus Christ; but don’t delay in responding appropriately (2 Peter 3:8-10).

If you’re a Christian discouraged by your continuing need to confess sin and change course, don’t despair. Run hard after God, knowing your eternal name won’t be ‘The Loser’ or “Tried But Failed:

“Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He [Jesus] appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.”

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 I needed this today!



People Lover. Author. Blogger. Speaker. Forgiven Much & Wild About God. Learn about June's latest book on her website.

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