Talking donkeys….whatever next?

29 03 2011

DAY EIGHTY-SIX : Numbers 22 v. 21 – 23 v. 26; Luke 6 v. 37 – 7 v. 10; Psalm 37 v. 32 – 40

NUMBERS
Balaam’s Donkey – So Balaam sets off with the princes of Moab, on his donkey! God is angry but is going to use this episode to speak to and through Balaam….He sends ‘the angel of the Lord’ to block the path the donkey is travelling. Poor donkey – she sees the angel brandishing a sword, and turns away from the path Balaam wishes to travel, and gets beaten by Balaam (who cannot see the angel at this stage) three times ! It’s sort of comical, but the best is yet to come…
After the third beating, ‘the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me?”‘
Like a scene out of Shrek, we’ve got a talking donkey.
For me, what should happen, is that Balaam should fall off the donkey and run into the wilderness never to be seen again, convinced he’s finally gone mad. However, Balaam simply talks back to the donkey as if nothing particularly unusual has happened.
During the conversation, the Lord opens Balaam’s eyes (spiritually) and he is able to see the angel.
Balaam bows low and falls face down – the right OT response to experiencing the presence of God / God’s messenger.
When Balaam repents of his wickedness towards the donkey, and offers to go back, the angel encourages him to learn the lesson, and, as he continues on to meet Balak, to speak only what God / God’s messenger gives him to say.
Balaam is given an enthusiastic welcome by Balak (once he’s expressed a little kingly grumpiness that he hadn’t come sooner, first time of asking).

Balaam’s First Oracle – the next morning, from a high vantage point over the area (Bamoth Baal), Balaam has seven altars built, and seven bulls and seven rams are sacrificed. Balaam goes off to a ‘barren height’ to hear from the Lord. Balaam returns with his first oracle, having met with God, and addresses Balak and the Moabite princes.
“How can I curse those whom God has not cursed?
How can I denounce those whom the Lord has not denounced?”
Balaam has been shown that the Israelites are ‘set apart’, a righteous people, and concludes his oracle with a desire to be like them as his life comes towards its end.
Balak is annoyed – why has he brought Balaam all that way, to curse the Israelites, just to be told he can’t.
Balaam knows he can only speak what the Lord gives him to say.

Balaam’s Second Oracle – Balak gives Balaam a second chance, moving to a different vantage point, and telling him to curse the Israelites. Again, seven altars, and seven bulls and seven rams are sacrificed. Balaam goes a little distance away to meet with the Lord, and returns with a second oracle.
“God is not a man, that He should lie…
No misfortune is seen in Jacob…the Lord their God is with them…
There is no sorcery against Jacob, no divination against Israel.”
Balaam has been shown that Israel is God’s chosen people, like a lioness hungry to devour what lies before her.
Balak changes tack, asking Balaam neither to curse nor to bless this people. Once again, Balaam repeats he must speak what the Lord gives him to say (and do what the Lord, not Balak, wants him to do).

LUKE
Judging – the hallmarks of a close walk, a deep discipleship, include not being judgmental and condemning of others (one finger pointed at others leaves three pointing back at self, and all that!), but of forgiveness (never an easy thing…only made easier, and possible, when we grasp the depth of forgiveness offered to us through Christ), and generous giving
“For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Look at sorting out the plank in your own eye, before you try to pick a speck out of another’s eye.


Fruitfulness – ‘each tree is recognised by its fruit’ (good fruit or bad fruit); store up ‘good things’ in your heart, and you will produce good fruit; store up evil in your heart, and you will produce evil / bad fruit. Plain and simple.

Wisdom and Foolishness – just as Balaam was a learning a lesson in listening to God and doing / saying what God gave him to do / say, so it’s wisdom indeed to hear Jesus’ words and put them into action, be obedient to His will – like ‘digging deep’ to build the sure foundations of our lives on solid rock, so that flood, storm and wind will not destroy the life built on Jesus, our Rock.
Therefore, it’s foolishness indeed to hear Jesus’ words and ignore them, like building without sure foundations and no depth, vulnerable to all the elements, and easily destroyed by the torrent…

Jesus sums up his teaching with this parable – ‘you’ve heard the teaching, now you choose….dig deeper in your life, and build on the solid rock, or carry on building without attending to the foundations….a matter of survival or destruction, life or death.’

Centurion Faith – here’s a man, maybe, to some, an unlikely God-seeker at that, perhaps, who is ready to choose to ‘dig deeper’, out of sheer desperation. He’s clearly a very caring centurion – valuing his servant highly, loving the nation and building the synagogue in Capernaum.
The centurion shows great faith, by urging Jesus to heal his servant from a distance, without needing to come any nearer to the house.
“Say the word, and my servant will be healed”, he recognises Jesus’ authority, and the centurion understands something about ‘chains of command’.
Jesus commends and honour the centurion for his faith, unrivalled in all Israel.
The centurion’s servant is healed.

PSALM
“Wait for the Lord and keep His way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land….”
the wicked may seem to flourish, but they will pass away
the blameless, upright people are the ones with a real future
“The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; He is their stronghold in time of trouble.”

Again, a choice, a decision – life or death, salvation or destruction – you choose !
The wise choice is to wait on the Lord, and to keep His ways!

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