Listen to your Donkey

We don’t hear about this much from the pulpit… but there is a talking donkey in the Bible.  The owner’s name is Balaam and the donkey is called… his donkey.  If you aren’t familiar with the story, you might take a second to get caught up:

Numbers 22:21-33

In my Bible, the heading of that story is interesting.  It’s titled, “Balaam’s Donkey”.  After reading that story, I would have thought the angel with the sword was pretty cool… and very important.  But Balaam didn’t even notice him.  You know what else Balaam didn’t notice?

THAT HIS DONKEY WAS TALKING!!!!!  Read the text.  After the donkey asked why he beat him so, he simply responded and then added a threat to the donkey to boot.  I also think its interesting that the word says that God opened the donkey’s mouth.  Note the words it spoke,

What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”

Balaam wasn’t beating God or the angel.  He was beating his donkey.  And the donkey spoke.  Why ME?  Not, why HIM?  Not, leave that Donkey alone… it was, “you beat ME”.  And the donkey speaks in first person again.  Later, Balaam sees the angel and the angel references the donkey directly as a 3rd party.  And while all of that is interesting, Balaam responds to the donkey’s questions as though it was a normal conversation.

We don’t receive any physical description of fear, surprise, shock, awe, or confusion.  Balaam is so angry at this creature that when it asked why he would hurt it, he had explanation prepared and shouted it readily.  Balaam wasn’t quoted with a stutter, nor were any follow up questions mentioned.  I was expecting something along the lines of:

“you can talk!?!??!?!”  Or how about an, “I’m so sorry!!”.  Speaking tends to humanize things a bit, but Balaam was wishing he had his sword to teach this animal a lesson.

This situation screams out crazy.  Who could tell this story and not end up in a white jacket after?  But I believe that we re-enact this on an extremely regular basis.  Consider the following:

  1.  We follow our own path.
  2. We keep our head down and pay little attention to what is going on around us.
  3. Circumstances try and steer us clear, but we complain, point fingers, blame, and otherwise try to work around these “obstacles” that are actually there to help us… in hindsight.
  4. Something amazing happens.  Perhaps even miraculous.  But it wasn’t what we wanted, or our way of doing it, or in our timing, so we kick it, fuss at it, and wish it harm.
  5. God performs a holy double face-palm at His efforts to put us on track and our inability to see Him through our own small thinking.

Even when I’m trying to do good, I go about it MY way in most cases.  There are two things I think we could all do better:  (look and listen).

  1.  Keep your eyes out for sword wielding angels.  God cares so much for us.  He loves us to death (His Son’s death) and He would, and has done, anything for us.  This includes working in our lives today.  Keep that head up and look for signs, opportunities, noble paths, people in need, etc.
  2.  Keep your ears open for talking donkeys.  Don’t be so entrenched with what you want, that you can’t even hear or notice that God is clearly talking to you.  If you are open to the will of God, then you need to be always prepared to step back from the worldly way of doing things.  We need to be prepared and expect speed bumps, road blocks, detours, bridges out… If these things derail us emotionally, we will never experience the miracles off the beaten path (which will be most of them).

We can get so wrapped up in our world, we don’t even recognize it when donkey’s speak.  Balaam didn’t.  Not that I can tell.  But I can recognize his exasperation for the situation.  It’s a laser focus mentality that refuses to acknowledge anything other than plan A.  Balaam was on a mission and this stubborn beast was not going to get in His way.

Be open to the whims of the donkey… it may just be spying a sword wielding angel ready to slice you down.  Did you see how the angel talked to Balaam?  He told the man that he would have killed him if he kept going… and he would have spared the donkey.  The donkey saved his life (and tried to 3 times).  Perhaps when things don’t go our way, instead of asking, “why me!!?”, why not pray about what blessings are about to happen?  Or what warning needs to be heeded?  Balaam learned, in the oddest way possible, to be thankful for unexpected inconveniences.

I know that for me, the next time I blow a tire, I’m going to be looking around the area.  Is someone else around?  Is there an opportunity here?  Should I go another way?  Should I turn around completely?  Does the hubcap have something to say?

 

 

 

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Is Freedom Worth it? Or, Do We Have it Already?

This picture sums up better than I’ve ever been able to with words, how God’s word, His law, and His expectations are lovingly freeing to those obedient to Him.

God doesn’t desire to put us in a boring box.  He yearns to be near us.  To protect us.  And even those that fully understand this start to feel trapped at times.  “I can’t do this, I can’t do that.  Why is God smothering me and keeping me from fun?”  It doesn’t happen overnight.  But eventually, it makes sense to us that we need to get out of that cage.

Look back at that picture again.  This is more like God’s point of view.  He will allow people to come and go… but He really, really wants you to stay.  He loves you, wants to keep you safe, and knows that predators literally hide above, below, and on all sides of your life.  The enemy is ruthless, cunning, and knows how to work through friends, family, loved ones, businesses, and even strangers on the road.

What is life like inside of the cage?  It’s wonderful.  I’m safe.  I’m loved.  I’m accepted.  I gave up bad habits that were only holding me back.  Now I can go farther.  Did you catch that?  I have MORE freedom in God’s embrace.  He is with me wherever I go.  Like children learning to walk, we aim to get further away from the parents that want to keep us on the ground.  Do they hate us?  No, but they don’t want us to fall either.  They construct cages and barriers of all kinds for our safety.  If it were up to us, we’d wander into traffic out of sheer curiosity.

Sadly, we never grow out of this reflex.  To test our limits and see how far, high, and fast we can go is seemingly born within us.  Helmets weren’t invented before the first fall.  They were thought up after incident after incident.  Eventually someone thought, there has to be a better way.  Wear this!  It will protect you.  God’s love and protection is little different.  It’s not just in case… It’s to save eternal lives.

Consider what Jesus has done for you.  What lengths He went through to save you.  Measure that against His wisdom.  It really is freeing to forgive others.  It truly is satisfying to not judge others.  Telling the truth?  Why, its the healthiest thing I’ve ever done.  I don’t have to bother with alibi’s, details I may have forgotten, or cross checking stories with others.  I’m hoping the next time I’m tempted to wander outside of the cage, I remember how wonderful it really is inside.  That Satan wants us out and he will tell any lie he can to get us out from under God’s shield.

And if I can’t remember that, I hope this picture helps. It’s a reminder of how ridiculous the thought is of trying to leave in the first place.  And for what?  So I can gossip a bit more?  Or to make sure my politics are heard?  Or I just don’t feel like anyone in here gets who I am?  lies, lies, lies.  This picture tells the truth of what is outside.  I hope you can see it too.