Thursday, January 25, 2007

Will The Real Donkey Please Stand Up?

If I started to talk to you about a talking donkey, you might think I'm referring to the movie "Shrek". But no. (Nor am I referring to "Shrek 2"!)

I'm referring to a story of a man named Balaam (BAY lum).

He was a prophet. (And a rather curious choice at that. Most of the references to him in the New Testament are unflattering, to say the least.) But for whatever reason, God sends His word through Balaam with some regularity, for a time.

In this story, Balaam is being summoned to go and speak to a king. The king is an enemy of the people of Israel. And the king wants Balaam to prophesy a curse upon the Hebrews.

Balaam goes, (even though God initially says NOT TO go). However, Balaam's having transportation trouble. Not with his car or his bike. But with his donkey. His donkey doesn't want to run (or walk).

Apparently, the donkey sees something in the way. (Spoiler Alert: it's the Angel of the LORD in the middle of the road, standing there with a drawn sword.) Good 'ol Balaam doesn't see it, can't understand why the donkey won't move, and gives the donkey a beating.

This happens 3 times. (Balaam apparently is a slower learner than the donkey. However, as you'll soon see, he's NOT the slowest, most stubborn person in the story.) Finally, God opens the donkey's mouth and she asks Balaam, "What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?...Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?"

Eventually, Balaam sees the situation for what it is, and goes on to the king, with the firm conviction that he can only pronounce blessing upon the king's enemies, which INFURIATES the king.

Several times, the king (who seems even more obtuse and stubborn than Balaam), tries to coerce the prophet to say what would benefit the king (and thereby hurt God's people).

Balaam's response every time is something like this: "Didn't I tell you I must do and say whatever the Lord says?" The prophet can't just make things up or simply say them because the king will pay the prophet to say them.

The king moves the prophet to different locations, hoping the surroundings will change the prophet's word. But no.

The king promises tons of money and riches, hoping this will change the prophet's word. Again, no.

Finally, the prophet has had enough (and apparently, so has God). Because the fourth oracle the prophet gives to the king, not only includes blessing for the enemies. It includes destruction of all of Israel's enemies in this story, and that is what happens shortly. The king just doesn't get it.

It makes me wonder: Who's the donkey in this story?

But that's the easy way out. If I'm to let this story do it's work, I must ask another question: Where, in my life, am I stubborn, rebellious, and just not getting it?

It seems like this would be a great time to pause, and ask God for insight. Then, ask for forgiveness. Finally, this would be a good time to ask for help, strength, and wisdom to learn from my mistakes and not be the donkey in my life's story.

Grace & peace

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