Numbers 22:23 – 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.
Numbers 22:24 – 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.
Numbers 22:25 – 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.
Numbers 22:26 – 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.
Numbers 22:27 – 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.
Numbers 22:28 – 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?
Numbers 22:29 – 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.
Numbers 22:30 – 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.
Hey all, back with a new blog today, and looking at the life of Balaam. Balaam was a prophet, a prophet that talked to God, but a prophet that somehow managed to end up in hell! How on earth does this happen!? Balaam is a greatly misunderstood character in the Bible, at first there appear to be great contradictions, particularly relating to God being angry with him when he went with the princes of Moab despite God apparently telling him to go. I may be doing more blogs on his life in coming weeks, but today I will be chiefly looking at the famous story of Balaam and his ass. The story of Balaam is found in Numbers 22-24, but he is referenced in other parts of the Bible, and always portrayed in a negative light. There were things seriously wrong with him and what he did, he was more interested in fame, honor, finances than in doing the will of God, and it cost him his life. He knew of God, he knew God, he talked to God, but his heart was not towards God. Balaam was just like Cain. Cain talked to God, but Cain was not interested in God and doing things God’s way. Cain instead went in his own way, he went out of the presence of the Lord, he never repented. And like Cain, Balaam went in his own way, a way that God told him was a perverse way. Balaam was just like Jesus said, these people honor me with their lips but their heart is far from me. In previous blogs, such as on the life of Samson, I talked about the jawbone of an ass, and how it is a picture of God’s word, and also a picture of us who bear God’s word (ie. people who are saved who abide in the word, who sow the seed of God’s word, who hold forth God’s word to others). Asses are humble, servant, load bearing animals… it was a colt, the foal of an ass that carried Jesus into Jerusalem. Asses had to be redeemed by lambs in the Old Testament. Asses are a picture of us, we are wild asses before we are saved, but when we are saved, we are redeemed asses. And we asses each, are only redeemed by the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, who took away the sin of the world! Like the colt that bore Jesus, so we can bear God’s word, and if that’s all we bear in our life, it is more than enough and the only thing that’s important, that matters.
In the story of Balaam and his ass we learn many things which we will discuss today. In this story we see a picture of how unsaved humanity and even saved believers today relate and respond to God’s word. To begin with, just think of all the times you’ve heard Jesus’ name blasphemed. Think of all the times God and his word has been evil spoken of in your presence. The fact is, most people despise God. People despise Jesus. People despise those who believe in Jesus. Balaam’s ass copped Balaam’s fury. And so today God’s word cops the world’s fury. The Bible represents the only hope, the only line of defense between us and spending an eternity in hell. God’s word saves us, we hear, we believe, we are saved, forgiven, fully and forever. But most reject God’s word, most treat and have an attitude to God’s word in the same way Balaam treated his faithful ass. Balaam savagely mistreated his faithful ass which was trying to save him, but look what the ass got in return. Balaam wanted to kill it, Balaam was MAD at his ass. Unbelievable. People hate, people despise, people mock, people scorn, people ridicule, people are MAD at God’s word today. When Jesus began his ministry, they wondered at his gracious words, and then they were filled with madness and tried to throw him off a cliff. The world is furious with the gospel message, the preaching of the cross is offensive to them. They hate, they reject the ONLY thing that is going to save them. We see in the story that the angel of the LORD was standing with his sword drawn in Balaam’s way, ready to strike Balaam dead, it was only the actions of Balaam’s donkey which saved him. Balaam’s madness was not only his madness at his donkey for what his donkey did to him (in trying to save him from being killed!), it was his madness in beating the thing that was trying to save him. People truly mad are those who reject the Lord Jesus Christ, it is madness to reject forgiveness and eternal life. As Paul said to the unrepentant, unbelieving Jews in Acts, ye judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life. Do you judge yourself unworthy of eternal life as Balaam did?
The ass had borne Balaam his whole life. God is faithful, even when we are not. When we look back at our lives, we see that it was God who bore us all along. It was God’s mercy all along. It was God’s grace all along. It was God’s longsuffering all along. It was God’s grace all along. It was God all along. God who gives us chance after chance, just as the ass repeatedly turned Balaam out of harm’s way. Yet Balaam was determined to go in harm’s way… but he did not see the harm, and so we all today do not ever even begin to fully understand the harm that is coming to us if we don’t get saved, if we don’t get right with God. John the Baptist preached to flee from the wrath to come! Get out of God’s way! Yet the coming dreadful vengeful day of the Lord is scoffed at, doubted, laughed at, dismissed… just as in 2 Peter, they say, Where is the promise of his coming? People make the mortal mistake of mistaking God’s longsuffering for excusing sin. He is not excusing sin, he is giving space to repent, just as he did with all the wicked nations who occupied the land promised to faithful Abraham. It would be hundreds of years before they took the land, before the iniquity of the pagan nations was full. Balaam was spiritually blind, the ass could see, but Balaam could not. Balaam had rejected God’s word, God had given him clear, irreversible commands, but his greed, his lust, his ambition rejected God’s word. We, like Balaam, want God to say what we want to hear, and be careful that you don’t get to a position where God is saying go, when he originally said don’t go. God will prove your profession, he will prove your heart, just as Jeremiah proved the Rechabites. Balaam was blindly charging towards the sword of the Lord, he was so close to disaster, but he could not see it. Greed blinded him. Lust blinded him. Fame blinded him. Ambition blinded him. Multitudes of people today are hurtling towards hell today, and the ass of God’s word warns people, the asses that are God’s people today warn people, but they are hated, rejected, despised for their trouble. Think about how mad it is to hate someone who is trying to save your life! People have a tendency to treat those that care for them the most… the worst. People get along better with their enemies, than with their true friends, and the greatest friend is Jesus, who gave his life for each and every single one of us. Yet Jesus is hated. The one who wants to save, the one who will save, the outstretched hand of the Lord is slapped back. They spit in his face, we spit in Jesus’ face.
Balaam was mad at his ass because he said to the ass, thou hast mocked me. Balaam was more concerned about his reputation, his pride, his dignity in front of dignitaries of Moab. How often people take style over substance, how often people go for temporary over eternity, how fickle humanity is… how ridiculous Balaam was, and we are no better than Balaam, we are just like Balaam. Balaam’s ass offended him, and so the gospel offends people. It offends our flesh, it offends our understanding, even though as we see with Balaam, the ass sees far more clearly, acts more faithful, and is more true than we are. We are like Balaam, we cannot see things, but God sees everything past, present, future. Trust his eyesight through the pages of his word. God is bang on right every time, even if it doesn’t seem so to us. The Bible says, let God be true, and every man a liar. I am a liar. You are a liar. God’s word is the truth. The end.
Balaam’s ass had never let him down. Which made Balaam’s actions even more madness. God’s word never lets us down. God’s word is faithful and true. Jesus’ name is Faithful and True. God’s word is what protects you from God’s drawn sword. The donkey had a big message for Balaam, and the donkey of God’s word has a big message for humanity today. The donkey’s of God’s true followers have a big message for the world today. Be saved while you can, while the longsuffering of God is waiting, just as it waited in the days of Noah while the ark was a preparing. Today is the day of salvation. Jesus’ invitation is extended to all. Come and take the water of life freely. His water lasts forever, his water springs up into everlasting life. We are all asses, I am not better than you, you are not better than me. The only difference between saved donkey’s and unsaved donkey’s is that true believers have been redeemed by the Lamb of God. We are all asses alike. When you are saved, God can open your mouth, as God opened the mouth of the ass. It is God that is in the opening and closing business. God opens his word to us, if he doesn’t we can’t discern it. When we read the Bible with a proud, unrepentant, sneering heart, we won’t get a thing from it, God gives grace to the humble. What you get from God’s word depends on the heart attitude you bring, it is dependent on the Spirit of God enlightening our eyes, opening our ears. God can give you sight, as the ass could see what Balaam could not, the ass could see impending danger. If you are a saved ass, you can save others from the wrath to come, Balaam’s ass saved him from death, and we can save others by telling them what God’s word says, what God has done for us. But don’t expect thanks for it, the donkey got beaten by Balaam for it’s troubles. The faithful donkey was taken for granted. The donkey that saved Balaam’s life was belted by Balaam himself. How mad can you be… think about it. Beating the ass that’s trying to save your life! And we all do that. We disobey, rebel against God and his word. We kick against the pricks as Jesus said Saul (later Paul) was doing. It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks!!
The ass turned aside, the asss shoved Balaam’s foot into the wall, the ass fell underneath Balaam. The ass tried warning Balaam three times. God warns us too. God wants to get our attention. But the actions of the ass did not awaken Balaam. He was completely blinded by his greed, his lust, his flesh. He drove the donkey on. How many people today ignore the warnings of God! There are red flags in our paths, but we drive eagerly on. Are you ignoring God’s warnings today? God gives many warnings. God may be hurting you psychologically, intellectually, physically to get your attention. But the wounds of a friend are faithful. God can see what you cannot see. God wants to save you from a danger which you cannot see. God uses the ass to do it. Listen to God’s word, obey it, don’t rebel against it. The ass saved Balaam, Balaam did not save himself, Balaam couldn’t even see anything to be saved from!!! Balaam got saved by his donkey, nothing he did saved himself, and likewise we are only saved by the grace of God, none of us pull ourselves out the mire, out the pit, we are saved by God, because of God’s grace, mercy, longsuffering. God saves us from… God!! It was the angel of the Lord standing in the way, God is the Judge of the Universe. And God is holy and righteous. We are all sinners, and the righteous, just penalty for our sin is eternal death in hell, and we will rightfully go to hell unless we get saved by God’s provision, his Son, who died for us that we may live, because he lives.
When God opened Balaam’s eyes he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his sword drawn. Balaam’s ass had saved his life, because there was no way for the donkey to turn, the only way ahead was into certain death. God said to Balaam that his way was perverse before him. And all of our own ways are perverse before God. There is only one way which is right. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. We like to forge, invent, and go our own way. Cain went his own way. Balaam was hellbent on going his own way. The saddest part of this story is that Balaam was not changed by this incident. Balaam went to hell. Balaam was a man that talked to God. Balaam was a man that knew God. We are all like Balaam. God is not a mystical being out there far away, he has spoken to you, he has spoken to me. But are you listening. Do you want to hear? Balaam knew God’s word, but rejected it in his heart, he was not interested in God’s way in his own life. It all comes down to our own hearts. It is possible to be so familiar with God, with his way, his word, and yet go to hell. We all have faithful asses in our lives which are trying to save us, which will save us, but instead we beat the ass, we blame the ass. Don’t be mad, like Balaam was!