In Numbers 22 through 24, we encounter one of the most infamous but least really known stories in the Bible: the tale of Balaam, whose donkey speaks to him.
Here’s the basic synopsis: Balak, King of Moab, sees the vast number of the Israelites on the edge of his land. Horrified, he begs Balaam, a prophet, to come and curse the Israelites.
Balaam consults God, knows that he can’t curse His people, and sends word to Balak that he won’t come. After a little banter back and forth, God tells Balaam it’s OK for him to go as long as Balaam listens to what God tells him to do.
It’s on the way to Moab that Balaam’s donkey speaks. The donkey keeps seeing the angel of the Lord blocking its path and stops. Balaam can’t see the angel, and is angry with the donkey, beating it. After the donkey just lays down in the road, Balaam beats it one last time and the donkey says, “What have I done that you are beating me three times? Haven’t I always done what you told me? DON’T YOU THINK THERE’S A REASON?”
Then Balaam can see the angel.
There’s more to the story, but I’ll get there in a minute.
What is most fascinating to me about this story is not the talking animal – or the fact that Balaam talks back to it. It’s that there’s someone who hears the One True God outside of Israel.
Once upon a time, my husband and I were having dinner with one of my coworkers and her pastor husband. He told a tale that I won’t forget: how even in ancient China, there was a character that appeared to be a man lifting a sheep above his head. Perhaps it means nothing. Perhaps it means that God was revealing Himself in many different cultures … and He stuck with the one that believed and followed Him.
Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Even outside of the group of God’s chosen people, there was at least one prophet in the world who truly knew Him, listened to Him, and to whom God spoke!
Do we think God only speaks to Christians? We are so wrong. Did you know one of the most common ways Muslims are converted to Christianity are through dreams where Jesus speaks to them?
God is bigger than the Christian box. He was bigger than two million Israelites. He can use ANY method He wants to bring people to Him. That excites me!
I’d encourage you to read Numbers 22 through 24 yourself to really get the story of Balaam, but here’s the rest: Balaam goes to Balak. Balak tells him to curse the Israelites three times. Three times he blesses them instead! I bet Balak was one unhappy king. Then, as the icing on the cake, Balaam tells Balak that the Israelites would destroy his nation, eventually.
I’m sure they parted ways on good terms, don’t you?
Speaking God’s Truth isn’t always going to make you the popular girl. But it’s worth it.
(Unfortunately I don’t think everything Balaam did was good. He has a pretty bad rap through the rest of the Bible and was killed in battle by the Israelites. But I haven’t gotten there yet …)