By Leonard Lauriault
God has used various methods to speak to men. He now speaks through his son whose teachings are recorded in the New Testament (Hebrews 1:1-3; John 14: 23-26; 16: 12-15; 15: 26, 27). Once, God used the voice of an animal to get his message across because her owner wouldn’t obey him. Read Numbers chapter 22 (chapters 23 to 25 give most of the rest of the story). We’ll focus on Numbers 22: 21-35 for a few points.
First, God let’s us do what we want, even if it’s against his will. When the other princes came, instead of reaffirming God’s first message to not go, Balaam, like Balak, unwilling to take “No” for an answer, decided to ask God again, eventually causing everyone problems. Permission to sin shouldn’t be misconstrued as an endorsement of our reckless actions because they still anger God. Nonetheless, he withholds his anger for our protection, showing it only when it’ll benefit us the most (Exodus 34: 5-7; Psalm 103: 8-14; Acts 17: 30, 31).
When our relationship with God is on track, nothing can stand against us; however, if we stray, God himself will oppose us (Romans 8: 31, 32; Exodus 23: 20-22; 1 Samuel 2: 10; James 4: 6-10 – keep your Bible open to James 4 for the next two references). Consequently, when things go from bad to worse, we need to consider whether we’re acting according to God’s will (James 4: 13-15).
Balaam blamed his donkey for acting strangely and kept forcing the issue of his will instead of wondering why he was having trouble. If we continue to press on in the face of God’s opposition, we’ll eventually find ourselves in dire straits, unable to turn around. Balaam found himself between a rock and a hard place on the two sides, while the donkey knew what was ahead and felt what was behind. They were at odds with God, each other, and the world (literally).
Christians will always be at odds with the world because the world opposes God (James 4: 4, 5; John 3: 16-21; 15: 18-21; Matthew 6: 24; 1 John 2: 15-17). Consequently, God gives us his Spirit and other Christians to encourage us along the way (Romans 8: 12-17; 1 John 3: 11-24). When we begin opposing God, we also become at odds with other Christians, leaving us nowhere to turn.
Second, even when we press onward until we’re hemmed in on all sides, God still provides the way out (1 Corinthians 10: 13). He even goes to increasingly extreme measures to show us the danger of our recklessness because he loves us as his children and wants to prevent our demise (2 Peter 3: 9; Hebrews 12: 4-11; remember that while Balaam was a prophet of God, he wasn’t an Israelite, indicating that God also looks out for those who aren’t his children in some way, sometimes; but, never to the extent that he cares for his children). Eventually, the donkey let Balaam know that he was unjustly beating her at which time God also opened Balaam’s eyes to see the danger.
Sin is always crouching at our door so we must always do the right thing (Genesis 4: 7). If we can’t turn around, we might need to back out of a situation. Even a donkey can be taught to back up and if so taught, Balaam’s donkey would’ve done just that if Balaam had tugged on the reins rather than blocking the way by beating her backside. Balaam had control of both the rod and the reins. He chose the rod to enforce his own will instead of using the reins to yield to God’s will and back out of his sin. God gives all of us this choice; he’s decided the outcome of each way of life, but we choose the way of life.
By studying God’s word, we can know when our way is wrong and make a change (2 Timothy 3: 16, 17). Rather than pushing onward, when life goes strangely, or when the way seems tough, we need to open our eyes and try to learn why we’re going nowhere fast. Must God show us the extent of his love by using such an extreme measure as having an animal speak up to get our attention?
I wonder what Balaam’s traveling companions (the princes of Moab and his two servants) thought about his difficulty. Did they just laugh or blame Balaam for slowing them down by not keeping his donkey under control or did they keep quiet for fear of offending Balaam or did they even notice what was going on because they weren’t open to discipline as God’s children?
Where do you fit in all this? Are you listening to God the only way he speaks to us today?