Deeming our donkeys

Those of us who have tunnel vision can take away a lesson from the passage about Balaam and his donkey. In Numbers 22:21-34, the story unfolds and offers us much insight into how our willingness to push our way forward, neglecting to be open to the circumstances ordained by God around us, can be blindingly misleading. To be sure, even forcing our way through something is under His control as to whether we succeed or not, but Balaam’s stubbornness and unrelenting forcefulness was due to his eyes being closed to what was before him.

An angel of the Lord stood on the road Balaam was riding his donkey down, sword drawn and ready to kill Balaam if he persisted down the path. Three times, the donkey disobeyed her owner and refused to proceed further because she could see the angel up ahead, whereas, Balaam could not. He beat her with his staff each time and the third time, “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?'” (v. 22:28). Without hesitation or unbelief that a donkey actually spoke to him, he replies to her and the two exchange words before “the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn” (v. 22:31). Who says the Bible is boring?! Talking donkeys and men who talk back to them, but that’s only one magnificent part of this passage.

Application of any verse(s) in Scripture can be multiplicitous; this time I’ll apply it to an area we Christians can forget to give our consideration as we forge through the many tasks that fill our days. Tasks such as raising our children, growing with our spouses, searching for fruitful relationships in family and church, making medical decisions for ourselves and our loved ones, and discerning just about every choice we have before us. In all of these, although Reformed beliefs generally discount signs as biblical, I can’t help but side with charismatics on this issue.

God provided Balaam with guidance, or signs, by making his donkey hold him back. In verse 32, the angel of the Lord tells Balaam, “I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me.” The donkey, with eyes wide open, could see this angel and Balaam could not. Sitting atop the hesitant donkey, Balaam was put off by her refusal to move forward. This was a sign and Balaam didn’t heed it. How many times have we been guilty of a similar blatant ignorance of circumstances that arise before us, but instead, in our tunnel vision, forcefully try to make something happen because we think it should? Our way is the right way, or so we think. We come to decisions that seem right to us, but for some reason, the struggle to make them come to fruition increases. This is where paying close attention to the signs that happen for us can be a release. A release of our perceived control, learning to see with eyes wide open the warnings God may lay in our paths.

Having trouble buying that home you believe God wants you to have? Are there continual difficulties with health concerns on your mind? Trying with all your might to pursue justice as you see fit against someone or something? Struggling day in and day out with the worrisome spiritual condition of your own heart or those that are close to you? I believe this passage can help. It can help us pause and deeply consider the roadblocks that God sets before us. Although we cannot see into the future, He can. He can also make our reckless paths visible to us if we’re trudging down the wrong way. Learn to be cognizant of the signs in our circumstances; He will guide us and this can bring us peace with whatever we’re dealing with. Next time you’re caught off guard by a roadblock, be mindful of the donkey and Balaam; try to be open to whether the block is God’s guidance, because though hearing a donkey speak to you would be hard to refuse, I’m doubtful that’s the method He’ll use for us today. His methods can be circumstantial and, even if it takes three times or more for us to concede to His will, we’ll get it eventually.

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