“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…”
To me, one of the most compelling stories of the Bible has to do with the oracle, Balaam. This man had a career and reputation for being a prophet-for-hire, and apparently, according to the Biblical record, God used the man to communicate certain matters to men. Balaam was a person of influence in his day.
In this particular situation, the King of Moab wanted Balaam to curse the Israelites, who were massed along the border of Moab. The King felt that a curse would be more effective for his kingdom than engaging in a military clash with the emigrating Jews.
The potential remuneration from the Moabites for the desired service enticed Balaam. And, although God instructed him not to have any part with it, Balaam decided to do it nonetheless.
This is where it gets very interesting. God decided to kill the man for his decision to accept the project. The Angel of the Lord stood in the road with sword drawn for that purpose. But, three times, the ass Balaam rode saw the danger and evaded it.
Eventually, the Angel told Balaam, “I went out to withstand thee because thy way is perverse before me. 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.”
Don’t you know Balaam must have given God thanks for the ass?
In so many terms, we are just like Balaam. We envision some inane schemes about what we will do concerning certain things. It may involve determinations for revenge or payback. It may involve developing a plan for a verbal attack. It may involve doing something you well know you cannot afford.
But, in the end, if circumstances evolve that you cannot complete the plans, then, thank God for it. We all have been guilty of such. We all have fantacized about doing certain things. But, for whatever reason, we were prevented from accomplishing it. Something “withstood” us. We would have caused more harm than good had we followed through. Furthermore, we would have jeopardized potential good for ourselves.
Ultimately, we should thank God that He kept us from doing wrong. He graciously saves us from ourselves.
Here is the lesson: we read that, when approached, Balaam consulted the Lord about it. That was the right thing to do. God told him definitely not to go. That was His instruction. That was His expressed will. In the end, however, Balaam went anyway, and, had it not been for the ass, Balaam would have experienced measureable harm for himself.
By contrast, the important thing for us to do is to measure our perceived intentions against what is the Lord’s revealed will.
Does God reveal His will to us when we consult Him about our plans? Most certainly He does. First, His will is revealed in His Word. It is there He tells us how he wants us to deal with adverse circumstances in our lives. It is there that He tells us how He wants us to deal with other people. It is there that He tells us what kinds of attitudes we should possess.
Second, there is the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Do you not know that the Spirit’s leadership is supremely associated with good, and not harm or evil? He will lead us to do what is right. He will lead us to bring God honor and glory, and not criticism of Him through us, and our actions.
Then, two things we must do: be obedient and stay obedient. Then, determine to give God time to work things out. Otherwise, we may not see quickly enough the Angel standing in the way.
Now, what makes me laugh about this story is the conversation Balaam had with the ass. The ass spoke. Balaam talked back to the ass. Sounds like something we do sometimes.
Pastor Ron Branch lives in Mason County and is pastor of Hope Baptist Church, Middleport, Ohio.