When God Speaks Through Asses


There’s an awesome story in the book of Numbers when God decides to use a donkey to get his message across.  For effect, let’s use the KJV:

And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.

And God's anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the Lord stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.

KJV is just fun, I should use it to teach far more often.

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.

In case you can’t make sense of what it is trying to say, Balaam keeps getting frustrated that his donkey won’t go where he wants it to go. Now of course this was because of the angel of the Lord that stood in the way, but Balaam doesn’t realize that so he beats the donkey with his staff.

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.

At this point you have to wonder, how is it so natural for Balaam to just talk back? Because the first thing I would do if a Donkey talked to me would probably not be answering.

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.

Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.

This is the “Oh crap” moment for Balaam.

And the angel of the Lord said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me:

And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive.

And Balaam said unto the angel of the Lord, I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again.

So get the scenario: Balaam is riding his donkey, he gets frustrated and beats the donkey. The donkey starts talking to him and all of the sudden Balaam is realizing the Donkey is right so Balaam repents of his sin.

Is this not a crazy story?

God speaks to Balaam through his own donkey and leads him to repentance.  This gives me great hope.  Because if God can speak through an ass, he can speak through me.

God of the Ordinary

Perhaps it is a bit strange for God to choose the vehicle of a donkey to get his message across, but the concept of God choosing the unexpected things to be his way of working is not new.  God has always been about doing the miraculous in the midst of the ordinary.  So an ordinary talking donkey is made miraculous. God uses an ordinary staff to part a great sea. God uses ordinary people to lead his people. God uses ordinary bread and wine to give us his body and blood. God uses ordinary water to rescue people.

God uses ordinary human flesh to become the place in which God himself would dwell.  And God uses a Roman execution device to be the place where he atones for the sins of all people.  None of these things that God decides to work through are miraculous.  But the mundane when encountered with the Word become something far more than meets the eye.

In our vocations, or callings, we see the same thing. Our vocations are ordinary, everyday places that God has placed us in. But as Christ lives in us and works through us we find something miraculous as God himself is serving our neighbors through us. We become the gloves on the hands of Christ as he loves and cares for our neighbor.

Our work in our families or in our careers or in our neighborhoods are certainly not miraculous, but the work of God in those places is.  In a mysterious way, our work becomes the ass through which God serves our neighbors. Do your work that God has called you to; be the ass he created you to be. May the God who gave his life for you work through in as you love and care for those around you.

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