“Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials.”
A few years ago you couldn’t watch TV for too long before without seeing this guy: the Verizon wireless commercial guy. This guy goes all over the world asking, “Can you hear me now?” Isn’t it crazy how communication has become a big part of our lives today, how advanced it has gotten, and how it allows us to stay in touch with loved ones. It pretty crazy for those of us who a little older but to the younger people of today it’s just the norm.
Reception in communication is so important. Reminds me of this funny story:
Illustration: An old couple was sitting by the fireplace. He looked over at her, had a romantic thought, and said, “After fifty years, I’ve found you tried and true.”
The wife’s hearing wasn’t very good, so she said, “What?”
He repeated, “After fifty years, I’ve found you tried and true.”
To which she said “After fifty years, I’m tired of you too” (from sermoncentral.com)
Today, let’s read a story that talks about our needing to have good communication with God.
Read Passage – Numbers 22:21-34
21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. 22 But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road. 24 Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, it pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat the donkey again. 26 Then the angel of the LORD moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. 28 Then the LORD opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” 29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.” 30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?” “No,” he said. 31 Then the LORD opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown. 32 The angel of the LORD asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.” 34 Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.”
Today we are looking at a guy named Balaam. Balaam is a man of Pethor, a city in Mesopotamia. (Show map.) (Corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.) He is a well know diviner and it appears that he has some respect for Yahweh even though he is not an Israelite. We’re not sure how whole heartedly he followed Yahweh but we know he had some amount of faith. Most scholars consider him a pagan priest. Interestingly enough if you look back at verse 18 Balaam calls Yahweh “my God.” But there are numerous passages in the Bible that talk about Balaam as a guy who is only out for himself and really not a good character who leads people astray. We know that his reputation went before him, that he was a pretty well respected diviner. In our story, Balak, the king of Moab calls Balaam to come to him. This is about 370 miles away and it would take about three weeks to journey to see king Balak in Moab Balak is in a fight with the Israelites and his hope is that Balaam will come and put a curse on the Israelites. Balak notes of Balaam in Num. 22:6:
“For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.” Num. 22:
So Balaam has a reputation that precedes him that what the says really happens
When Is God Angry?
In verse 1-21 we see that Balak is summoning Balaam to curse Israel because he knows when Balaam speaks, it happens. Balaam’s not sure abou this and wants to sleep on it. In the middle of the night God came to Balaam and told him not to go with them. Balak doesn’t like that Balaam won’t go with him and tries to sweeten the pot by sending some more important guys back to him, and offers a lot of money and riches to come and curse Israel. This time, God comes to him again and allows him to go with Balak but only to say whatever God tells him to say.
This is the point of the story where it seems to get a bit confusing because in verse 22 it says:
“But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him.” Vs. 22
You might be saying, wait a minute I thought God told him to go with them. He did. But God know what is going on behind the scenes and in the hearts of men and sees what we can’t.
I think we can still learn a lot from Balaam. The way God interacts with him and the way Balaam responds can have a lot of similarity to the way we deal with God and how we respond to him in our life.
Lessons From Balaam
So let’s look at what lessons we can learn from a “pagan priest” and how we can know God’s will for us and how to respond to Him in the situations of our life.
- God Speaks
First, it may sound obvious but it is a good reminder, God speaks and is still speaking today. In fact, God speaks to believers as well as non-believers. Yes, non-believers. I’ve heard people say that God only talks to Christians and the God only hears the prayers of believers. If that were true, no one could become a believer because God couldn’t hear their prayer of repentance. In fact, we see God speak to non-believers. Let’s look again at verse 12:
“ But God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.” Vs. 12
God speaks to Balaam. God will speak to you too. God speaks to all of us in different ways but He isn’t silent. Some hear his voice, some see visions, some see Him in nature, some hear him speak through other people in their life, He speaks through His Word. I would even venture to say that it isn’t that God isn’t speaking, it’s that most of the time we are not listening. David said in Psalm 95:7-8:
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” Psalm 95:7-8
We often don’t hear God speaking because our hearts are hardened to his voice. We justify it away, he discount it, we don’t listen because we are so busy talking. Most of the time we get in the way.
Ex. Here is an example of how we get in the way, when our emotions, our, desires lead us. Tell the story of _______________________
So one thing we can learn from Balaam is to listen for God as He speaks to us.
- God Is Limitless
The second thing that we learn is that God is limitless. We put limitations of God but those limitations are our limitations not His. I mean really? Donkeys talking? Donkeys responding to God and His angels? Verse 23:
“When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field.” Vs. 23
This donkey sees what is happening and is able to respond. It kind of takes me back to when I was a kid. I have always loved animals and loved to watch those shows where animals could talk or understand people.
Ex. I loved shows like Flipper, a dolphin that could understand people. Remember Dr. Doolittle? The animals could respond to him. Just the idea that an animal can reason and think and respond. I was watching a show the other day where this guy could talk to an pond full of alligators and one alligator, George, would come when he called. In reality some animals have the capacity to respond to us but could you imagine them talking and reasoning with you? That’s what happens here. Balaam not only hears the donkey speak but responds to him when the donkey asks him a quesiton.
-You know what, I talk to animals. Ask my wife. I talk to the cows on my hikes. I talked with dogs, rats, etc. I am somewhat crazy I guess.
We have to remember that God is imitless and can use anything in all creation to do whatever He asks or needs. Remember in the book of Job when Jobs friends are questioning him. He throws this statement back at one of them in 11:17:
“Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?”
Our finite minds can’t even come close to knowing and understanding the limitlessness of God.
- Beware of: Obstacles in the Road
There is one thing to beware of from this story; we can’t see, sometimes, the obstacles that God pouts in our road. Most of time we see them in hindsight. Verse 33:
“The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times.” Vs. 33
This donkey is reasoning and thinking like a person and has the insight to see the obstacle that Balaam couldn’t.
Ex. Story of the time someone else saw an obstacle in my path that I couldn’t.
But as he is going Balaam starts to act on his own again. Verse 32:
“I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me.“ vs. 32
Remember earlier I asked why God was so mad? Here is the answer. God gets angry with Balaam because in heart Balaam is beginning to act recklessly and not follow God’s plan, not honor God in front of others, only think about himself and his gain, and so God sends the angel of the Lord to oppose him. God is onto Balaam and it begins to tick him off. The Lord God is not just another spirit or “god” that Balaam has dealt with in the past, God is very real, and had very real authority and very real power – and Balaam is about to experience it.
- Respond To God
As I said earlier, Balaam is not exactly the guy we want to pattern our life after, he’s not a solid believer in God. But here he gets it right. When he hears God, he responds. Verse 34:
“Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.” Vs. 34
Balaam, when confronted by God, responds with repentance. He basically says “I was wrong, and I’ll go back if you want God.” Balaam was so mad at this donkey. This donkey that saved his life. But he even says he would have killed the donkey if he had just had a knife at the time. He beats this donkey and abuses it but boy is he humbled by God. His pride took a big hit. This donkey, the one he beat, was his saving grace. He gets it here and admits his error and submits to God.
The Key: Stop, breathe, (get a grip), ask God,
Back in Deut. 4:39 Moses tells the Israelites:
“Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.” Deut. 4:39
Let me tie this into our life this morning. God has built times into our lives to stop, breathe, acknowledge Him, and get back on track. One of those times is communion. So let’s move into a time of communion.