Balaam's ass

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Numbers 22:21-30

Christianity is big business today.  Speakers can command live audiences of tens, even hundreds of thousands.  Millions more can watch their videos or buy their books.  What should we make of their popularity?  How should we assess their ministry?

Balaam’s ass is in the Bible to remind us that speaking spiritual words does not guarantee a speaker’s spirituality!

Balaam was a Moabite who lived at the time of the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings.  He was a prophet whose services were sought by his king, Balak.  Balak was worried that the Israelites were a threat to Moab so he asks Balaam to curse Israel.  He says of Balaam:

he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed. (Numbers 22:6)

Balak seems to think that Balaam is a kind of Abraham figure – that he has the power to bless and curse peoples (cf Genesis 12:1-3).  But when Balaam himself consults the LORD he’s told:

thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed.  (Numbers 22:12)

Whatever powers Balaam is said to have, the seed of Abraham is uncurseable!  The LORD has blessed the seed of Abraham and has blessed it irreversibly.

In the next couple of days we’ll see what happens when Balaam is brought before Balak and asked to call down these curses.  But our incident for today happens on the road there.  Whatever awe Balaam is held in by his own people, the Scriptures take him down a peg or two.

The prophet is riding his donkey, but when the Angel of the LORD (Christ Himself!) turns up on the road, we see just how much spiritual insight he has.  The donkey sees Christ, the prophet is blind.

And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way. But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side. And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall: and he smote her again.  And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.  And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.  (Numbers 22:23-27)

This great man – lauded by multitudes and known as a spiritual leader – can’t see the Prophet of prophets.  But not only does a donkey prove to have better spiritual sight, he also has better speech too.  To shame this prophet even further, the LORD allows Balaam’s ass to rebuke him:

And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?  And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.  And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay.  (Numbers 22:28-30)

It’s so comical!  The donkey speaks, and Balaam speaks back as though nothing strange has happened. Then the donkey wins the argument: All the prophet can say in reply is “Nay!”

Here’s the message: Yes, ‘spiritual men’ can speak arresting words.  They can even speak true words.  And millions may listen to them.  But even if they occasionally speak truth, it is only what the LORD has allowed to be said.  And the credit never lies with such speakers. The LORD can make a donkey speak if He wishes.

We mustn’t be lead astray by spiritual speakers today.  If they speak any truth it’s no testimony to their wisdom, only the LORD’s who can even speak through dumb animals.  The real test is whether the speaker sees Jesus.  He is Truth and the test of it.  Let’s not be impressed by speakers.  Let’s pray that they see Jesus.  And let’s look to Him ourselves.

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