A humble donkey might save your stubborn life.
Donkeys and faith. Part one.
Bill had God-given abilities, but he was mostly interested in a paycheck.
On this particular morning, he made plans to travel to a different country, one to the east, and consult with some rather nasty folks. They wanted to pay him to put a curse on another group of people that God was rather attached to.
God was not pleased. But like many of us, Bill was somewhat disinclined to hear him out entirely. It’s that puzzler of why God gives abilities and talents to people only to seemingly allow them to abuse it.
Anyway, God hadn’t really wanted him to take the trip, and he’d made it clear to Bill that he didn’t want him to go. But Bill really wanted to do this, and he pushed for permission. God finally relented and said he could go if he was summoned, and was only to tell the people who were paying for his service what God gave him to say.
Bill should have figured out that God didn’t want him to take part in what these folks had planned, and he could have obeyed knowing God’s heart. Instead, he chose to find a way to go.
Early in the morning, Bill hopped on his donkey and headed down the road. He took along a couple of friends for company.
“That guy,” God said, shaking his head. He was angry that for someone he’d blessed, Bill was indifferent to seeing what God really wanted from him. He motioned to an angel. “Get down there and stop him.”
Bill and his buddies, meanwhile, kept talking about their plans and what they were going to do when they arrived at their destination. The donkey plodded along until suddenly, in front of her, was the angel.
A huge angel, one with a sword drawn. Scary stuff, the donkey thought, and so she stopped a moment, before veering off the road down a side trail.
“Get a move on, nag!” Bill yelled, kicking his heels into the donkey’s side. “We’re going this way!”
Bill’s friends looked on amused as they watched him beat the donkey back onto the road. The angel moved position, further down the way, standing between two walls that lined the road ahead of the traveling entourage.
The donkey thought about stopping, but remembered the beating she got last time. So, she scooted up as close to the wall as she could to maybe squeak by the angel. Unfortunately, that meant Bill’s foot got crushed against the wall.
“You stupid ass!” Bill hollered, once again beating the donkey to get her moving.
The angel moved down the road once again, this time reaching a narrowing in the road where there was nowhere for the donkey to turn off or squeeze by on either side. There was no room to turn right or left.
The donkey saw the angel, and she sighed. Knowing that another beating was coming no matter what she did, she simply laid down beneath Bill. The angel was blocking the way and there was nothing else to do.
Bill was so enraged he couldn’t even form words. His companions watched, a bit uncomfortable, as he began beating the donkey with everything he had.
God, watching all of this, gave the donkey the ability to speak. “Why do you keep beating me?” the donkey asked Bill.
Bill was a little surprised. Donkeys don’t usually talk back. But he gathered his wits and replied. “You made me look like an idiot, and if I had a sword with me I’d kill you right here!”
“I’m your donkey. You’ve ridden me before and you know I don’t behave like this.”
Bill paused. That much was true.
At that moment, God opened Bill’s eyes so that he could see the angel. Bill fell to the ground.
“Why do you keep beating that donkey?” the angel asked him. “I’m here to stop you from continuing down your reckless path. You know God didn’t like what you are about to do. You know the path your on is disgusting to God. Your donkey kept you from being killed, frankly, because if you’d reached me I’d have killed you and only spared the donkey.”
Bill was feeling very humbled and terrified. “I’m very sorry! I didn’t know you were there! I didn’t see you! Now I will go back home.”
A close call with death was enough (at least this time) to get Bill to find true obedience to God in his heart.
The angel gave Bill further instructions, making it clear that Bill wasn’t the one calling the shots. God would allow him to continue on his path, but this time, when he arrived, he could only speak what God had told him to speak.
Bill should’ve had a pretty clear idea that you don’t try to find the wiggle room in the space God has directed you to operate in.
While this is a rather crude retelling of Balaam and his donkey from Numbers 22, there are some intriguing things happening in this story.
For starters, Balaam was an interesting prophet, one who did some things right, but did enough things wrong that he was eventually killed by God’s people. He’s mentioned throughout the old and new testaments as a warning because of his willingness to take money for the gift God had given him, his heart wanting to do the wrong things even when he outwardly obeyed, his tendency to drift away from truth, and his attempts to manipulate God. [Deuteronomy 23:3-6; Joshua 13:22, 24:8-10; Micah 6:5; Nehemiah 13:1-3; 2 Peter 2:15-16; Jude 1:11; Revelation 2:14]
For this article, though, it’s the idea of getting God’s permission to do something.
“I don’t want you to do this,” God told him.
“But they asked me to do this.”
“It’s a path to evil.”
“But God, can’t I do it if I promise to not do evil?”
“You know I don’t want you to do it, but yet you keep looking for a loophole to do it. Have it your way. Just know that there are consequences.”
Balaam was a guy who wanted to do what was wrong, and took God’s reluctant permission under specific permitted circumstances and twisted it to justify doing what he wanted to do all along.
“God didn’t say it was wrong. I mean, he had some limitations, but really, his permission is carte blanche to head on down the road. Grace, and all that.”
God’s permission is interesting. It’s not always an endorsement of what he allows you to do.
It’s kind of like in John 13:27 when Jesus, who knows what’s up with Satan-infused Judas, turns to him and says “what you’re going to do, just hurry up and go do.”
You can end up getting permission to destroy yourself, if that’s what you really want to do. God isn’t going to force himself on you, and if you’d really like to live a life of habitual sin, at some point he’ll just let you.
Consider that if it hadn’t been for the donkey, good ole Balaam would be dead. He had permission to head down the road to his death, except for the humble little donkey who saved his life.
Our current age has found what we think are a lot of loopholes in how we can live our lives even though God’s Word is actually pretty clear about the boundaries and sin. The fact that God isn’t dropping the hammer and stopping you from what you’re doing really shouldn’t be taken as him endorsing your behavior or your path. Sooner or later, down the road, you meet your judgment.
Unless, of course, you rely on the humble Savior, Jesus Christ.