Numbers 22 has the story of Balak and his fear of the approaching Israelites. “Moab was overcome with fear….So Balak….king of Moab….sent messengers to Balaam….Come now, curse this people for me, since they are too mighty for me”. Balak knows he is toast. He has seen how others have attempted to defeat Moses and his folks and failed miserably. So he knows he has to try something different. So he sends for Balaam, a man of God who has a history of blessing and cursing folks. He wants him to come curse the Israelites.
Balaam does the wise thing and seeks God. And “God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed”. That seems pretty clear doesn’t it? The answer was no – don’t go. So Balaam sends them packing after refusing their offer and their fees for divination. He is not going to disobey God. But Balak won’t take no for an answer. He wants something to happen and he wants it now. So he sends princes this time, more of them and higher ranking, to try and get Balaam to come and be part of his team to battle the Israelites. Balaam again replies: “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the Lord my God to do less or more”. Wise man – no more, no less, just what God tells him to do. That is what true obedience looks like.
But they pressed more and Balaam goes to God again for an answer. This time God says “If the men have come to call you, rise, go with them; but only do what I tell you”. God didn’t really mean it though, He was testing Balaam to see if He would be obedient to the earlier commands. But Balaam misses that curveball and goes with the men and “God’s anger was kindled because he went and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as his adversary”. Bad decision on Balaam’s part. He hops on his faithful donkey and takes off to see Balak. Now the donkey was far more perceptive that Balaam. The donkey “saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand….turned aside out of the road and went into the field….pushed against the wall and pressed Balaam’s foot against the wall….lay down under Balaam”. Balaam doesn’t get it, he just continues to strike the donkey for not going where he wanted him to. But each time the donkey saved his life.
Then God does the miraculous. “The Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times”? God opens the mouth of a donkey to speak. That has to be a rather unusual situation. But Balaam has a conversation with his donkey. “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way“? Balaam has to answer no as the donkey has been a good servant to him. And then “the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand”. Balaam finally sees what he has been missing – the donkey has averted his death on three occasions as the donkey veered from the course Balaam had set. He finally gets it and says “I have sinned, for I did not know that you stood in the road against me. Now therefore, if it is evil in your sight, I will turn back”. Balaam knows he is lucky to be alive and is on mission for God. He makes it clear to Balak that “The word that God puts in my mouth, that must I speak”.