Sunday we continued our sermon series entitled “The Obscure” with the story of Balaam and his ass. If you are not familiar with the story…read Numbers 22. But…for simplicity…allow me to summarize for you.
Balak (a king in Moab) is afraid of the Israelites. He sends word to Balaam (a seer…a magic-man…a diviner) to place a curse on Israel. Balaam talks to God about it and gets a big fat “NO”. Well…Balak sends more messengers with an offer that Balaam cannot refuse. He offers him anything that he wants. So Balaam goes off to place a curse on Israel.
On his journey to do so, the angel of the Lord stands in front of him three different times. The first time, the ass (donkey) saw the angel of the Lord and took off into a field (I would have done the same thing). The second time, the donkey scraped against the wall to avoid the angel of the Lord. Each time Balaam beat the donkey to get it to obey. The third time, the angel of the Lord stood in a very narrow passage-way so that the donkey could not avoid going straight at him…so…the donkey laid down. At this point Balaam is upset, he is embarassed, and he has been tested to his limit. Again Balaam strikes the donkey. This is when the strange becomes even stranger. A conversation between Balaam and the donkey breaks out.
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?” 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.” 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. (Numbers 22:28-30)
I think the “No” was filled with a sense of epiphany. You see…Balaam was a smart guy who was known for his amazing connection with the divine (in one way or another) but failed to see the angel of the Lord standing right in front of him. The donkey could. He failed to see the signs of warning that God placed in front of him. The donkey can. We fail to see when we are travelling down a dangerous road. But…sometimes…our donkey can.
It is just too easy to travel down the wrong road. And the most terrifying thing about it is that we do it all the time and never even realize it. This is why we are blessed if we have donkeys in our lives like Balaam did. I bet Balaam thanked God for that donkey. The angel of the Lord tells Balaam that if the donkey did not turn away those three times…he would have killed Balaam right then and there…and let the donkey live.
The temptation that lies in front of us is designed for us. The evil one knows what he is doing. He is excellent at his job. He places just the right temptation in front of you to lure you away from God…just enough so that you don’t notice and in the end…if you don’t realize it in time…that path will lead to your demise.
You cannot fight temptation on your own. This is why God gives us donkeys in our lives. Do you have a donkey? Do you have someone in your life that cares about you so much that they will be brutally honest with you when you stumble? Do you have someone who will do all that they can (even when you mistreat them for it) to keep you from destruction because of temptation?
Do you have a donkey? If not…I suggest you get one. Because having one…just may save your life.