Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. 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. 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.
Then the angel of the road stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. 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.
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. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me three times?”
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.”
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.
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 face down.
~ Numbers 22:21-31
This story struck me so much that I had to pause from reading to reflect. I don’t know what insights you would have drawn from this passage, but this is mine: We are Balaam, while the donkey is the Holy Spirit.
We are people with so many goals and dreams. And once we’ve set our minds on doing something, especially if we think it’s a matter of grave importance, we won’t let anything get in our way of accomplishing it. “Focus on the prize ahead,” we would say, and in our heads we would pray for the Lord to help us get there, without actually pausing to really seek His will regarding these plans. And these are the times that we have made God our donkey, expecting Him to carry us to that destination, while we hold the reins.
And as Balaam’s donkey tried to protect Balaam from the dangers that his blinded eyes could not see, the Holy Spirit who knows what’s ahead of us has been prompting us again and again to pause and rethink our actions. And like the way Balaam had beaten his donkey for bringing discomfort and “making a fool of him,” we grieve the Holy Spirit every time we think we know better and take Him for granted.
“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?”
I tried to replace this line with, “Am I not your God, who have always carried you, to this day? Have I been in the habit of making a fool out of you?”
And then my heart started to break. Who am I to think so little of my God? After everything He’s done to preserve my life, why do I still disobey Him? Why can’t I let go of the reins and surrender completely to his ways? Why do unanswered prayers make me feel foolish and defeated when I didn’t really ask for His will in the first place?
But after all these mistakes, He still uses stories like this to remind me that He’s still with me, no matter how stubborn I have become. That disappointment is His way of telling me that I’m walking the wrong way, and protecting me from the dangers that my human eyes cannot see. That I must seek His will first before making rash decisions that would just hurt me in the end.
“What have I done to you to make you beat me three times?”
When the donkey asked this question, I was reminded of how Peter denied Jesus three times in the New Testament (John 18:15-27). I think it was out of shame and fear. He was afraid to get hurt, to be beaten and put to death, as they did his Master. He was afraid to be labeled a fool for being a disciple of Jesus, and so he lied and lied and lied, and grieved God’s heart.
“Peter, do you love me?” The Lord would ask him three times in John 21:15-19. Try replacing Peter with your own name. How will you respond?