Hi, welcome to Redeem the Commute. I’m Ryan, your host for the Daily Challenges. Yesterday we read the story of Balaam, who was paid to ask God to curse the nation of Israel.  God naturally said no, but became frustrated when Balaam didn’t accept his answer.  Then things got weird:

But God’s anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. And the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand. And the donkey turned aside out of the road and went into the field. And Balaam struck the donkey, to turn her into the road. Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. And when the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pushed against the wall and pressed Balaam’s foot against the wall. So he struck her again. Then the angel of the LORD went ahead and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam. And Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. Then 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?” And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.” And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?” And he said, “No.”

Balaam is usually paid to be spiritual, to claim to know and see what others can’t.  But now, here he is with an invisible barrier in front of him, and a donkey, an ass, that refuses to move.  The donkey can see what Balaam can’t.  Balaam is being put in his place – he is not a great spiritual man, but a money-driven fraud.

He shows his true colours as he beats the donkey.  He is used to being in control of everything – he’s used to controlling the gods!  But now he’s had an encounter with the one true God, whom he can’t control.  He can’t even control a donkey or see why it’s stopped.

And now, the donkey speaks.  Yes, this is why I said the story would get weird.  God speaks to Balaam, but through one of the least noble animals possible.  Donkeys are the butt of many jokes, from Shrek to Pinocchio.  And now one is schooling Balaam.  She teaches him a lesson, and the lesson is that he isn’t God.  He can’t use God, and he can’t abuse God.  God is not his donkey.  Here’s what happened next:

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 down and fell on his face. And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me. The donkey saw me and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let her live.” Then Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you stood in the road against me. Now therefore, if it is evil in your sight, I will turn back.” And the angel of the LORD said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only the word that I tell you.” So Balaam went on with the princes of Balak.

(Numbers 22:22-35 ESV)

God finally opened his eyes to the angel standing in the path and to the evil of what Balaam had been doing.  If Balaam wasn’t convinced before that he should only be working for God, and not the king, he would be now.  He tried to get away with ignoring God’s words once before, and God had to use this armed angel and talking donkey to get his attention.

God still wants him to go on this trip, but on God’s terms, not Balaam’s or the king’s.  He’s not that unlike us, believe it or not.  We’ll explore that tomorrow.

Question: In what ways are you like or unlike Balaam?