Thursday, January 26, 2017

God gave her words, part III


Let's refresh our memory of our focus passage:
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. (Numbers 22:28-31)

I love how Balaam talks to the donkey as if it were an everyday occurrence that she spoke to him! And she defends her record, too.

Balaam sees the error of his ways. And he sees the angel, too. The angel tells him that he should be grateful for his donkey trying to save his life. And Balaam realizes his sin, and repents; he says he will go back. The angel tells him, though, to go on to the king's court -- but say what God instructs him to say, nothing more, nothing less.

Balaam obeys, and in spite of continued persuasion from Balak, he stays true to his word and does not curse the Hebrew children. In fact, he blesses them!

We can learn from Balaam's donkey!
Balaam's donkey could see the unseen -- Balaam could not. Balaam was blind to the spiritual things.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (II Corinthians 4:18)
Paul was telling us that we live in two distinct worlds: the physical world that we can see, hear, smell, and touch with our hands, and the spiritual world that we cannot see with our eyes. Angels, the devil, and other spirits can only be perceived by those who are spiritually discerning.  We humans think of the physical world as the only "reality," but Paul was insisting that it was just the opposite. According to Paul, when we look at someone, we are not seeing them, but their physical body they live in. Our bodies are just "houses" for our spirits; they will die and decompose one day, but our spirits will live on (II Corinthians 5:1). We believe in so many things we can't see . . . it should not be hard to believe in this spirit world. We can't see sound waves, but we know we hear each other and the radio. We can't see X-rays, but we see the results in the doctors' hands.
We can look back at an incident in the life of the prophet Elisha for a vivid example. In II Kings, an angry king sent a huge military force against the prophet. Elisha's servant panicked until Elisha prayed, and God opened the servant's eyes to see the multitude of angels protecting His prophet. We may never be blessed to see the angels as literally as Elisha's servant, but we should learn to perceive the spiritual world. Have we been in a worship service, or in our private study time, and felt the presence of our Father? Surely that is just as real as the Bible in our lap, or our hands folded in prayer.

Another thing we can learn from Balaam's donkey is to be brave and do what may be unpopular. She refused to give in, even though it wasn't the easiest thing to do. Usually when we think of stubbornness, we think of it as a negative, the way my grandma did when she got flustered with me. But when it comes to principles, and being determined to do what's right, it's a positive thing -- the Bible calls it perseverance, and faithfulness.  The donkey stood her ground, even though Balaam beat her; he even threatened to kill her! She was threatened with his sword, and she suffered verbal and physical abuse. When we stand our ground, there will be times when our families may harass us; society may persecute us; even some Christians may threaten us. But the Lord honors those who stand up for Him:
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad,because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12)
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (I Corinthians 15:58)
Lastly, we can learn from the donkey to speak what is unexpected.  The donkey was what we call a "dumb" animal; not gifted with speech. But God used her to speak a powerful message to Balaam. She spoke exactly what God wanted her to say. It wasn't earth-shattering. She didn't predict the outcome of the upcoming war for Balak, nor did she tell Balaam secrets about his past. She simply asked him three questions -- what have I done? Haven't I been faithful? Have I been in the habit of disobeying you?
God is probably not going to give us spectacular speeches to deliver when we are being persecuted, or when we have an opportunity to speak for Him. He wants us to state the simple truth, and that's often very, very powerful. We don't need to impress people with our vocabulary, or how glibly we talk.  Just ask simple questions -- what do you think about Jesus? Do you know why He came? Would you like to know Him personally? Sometimes we excuse ourselves, and we think we can't be expected to speak out for Him because we aren't qualified, or we aren't trained. We feel we should know more about the Bible, or we're intimidated by what others might say.
Our friend the donkey simply spoke the truth as God told her to. The Scriptures remind us to speak the truth in love, and to be ambassadors for Christ. God has promised that when we speak out in faith, we can leave the rest to Him:
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)
So, speak the unexpected! And be stubborn to do what may be unpopular. And watch for signs of the spiritual world. . . .
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow wearyand lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

1 comment:

Katie Isabella said...

I have thoroughly enjoyed this work for the week. It's like sitting in the living room with our Bibles and discussing what we read