Rev MIchael Anokye, 28th January 2024.
(The Bold Text Bible references link to the relevant passage at BibleGateway)
In Numbers 22:1-36, God speaks through a donkey to get the attention of Balaam. Balak, the king of Moab, asks Balaam to use his divine powers to curse the people of Israel, as he fears them due to their strength and numbers. Balaam was a renowned spiritual figure known for his ability to bless or curse individuals or entire nations. Balak had seen the Israelites’ victory over the Amorites and was desperate to find a way to overcome them, viewing Balaam’s curse as a solution.
Balak’s fear was understandable, but he would have had no reason to fear if he had known and believed in God’s word. In Deuteronomy 2:9, God commanded Israel not to provoke the Moabites to war or harass them, as He had given the descendants of Lot possession of Ar and would not give any of their lands to Israel.
It is common to feel panic, fear, and anxiety in various situations. However, it is important not to let these emotions obscure our judgment. King Balak made a grave mistake when he acted out of fear and distrust. He sent his leaders with money to Balaam, promising him more riches if he would come and curse the people of Israel. Balak believed that the strength of Israel was rooted in their spirituality and that they needed to be cut off from their source of power in order to be conquered.
Balaam sought God’s guidance, and God instructed him not to curse Israel as they were blessed. The next day, Balaam declined Balak’s request, telling his officials that he could not join them as the Lord had prevented him from doing so. Despite this, Balak persisted and sent more important officials to Balaam again, promising him generous rewards and whatever he asked to come and curse the Israelites. When more money was offered, Balaam faced a dilemma. He wanted the money but also knew obeying God was more important. Balaam struggled with his decision and even asked the men to spend the night, hoping God would give him a sign. Balaam’s problem was greed. He valued money more than his obedience to God.
God tells Balaam to go with the men who have come to summon him, but only to do what God tells him. However, he goes, God becomes angry and sends an angel to oppose him. Scholars have debated whether God permitted Balaam to go or if Balaam went with the wrong attitude. 2 Peter 2:15 suggests that Balaam’s motives were selfish and greedy. The desire to make money was in his heart, and God was upset with him. In response, God sent an Angel to stop him. As Balaam rode his donkey, the donkey saw the Angel standing in the road with a drawn sword and turned off. Balaam beat it to make it go back on the road. The Angel continued to block their path, standing in a narrow place with no room to turn. When the donkey saw the Angel again, it lay down under Balaam, who grew angry and beat it with a staff. The Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it spoke to Balaam, asking why he had beaten it. Balaam responded by saying that the donkey had made him look foolish and that if he had a sword, he would have killed it. The donkey reminded Balaam that it had always been his faithful companion. Suddenly, the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes and saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. Balaam fell to the ground and bowed low.
Balaam’s donkey talked to him, which may come as a surprise to many. However, Balaam was not surprised. This incident can provide us with insight into Balaam’s character. He was not only consumed by money and greed but also stubborn and had a terrible temper. Like Balaam, we all have weaknesses that prevent us from paying attention to God. These weaknesses hinder our ability to focus on God. We must learn to overcome our weaknesses to give God our undivided attention.
When God told Balaam not to curse Israel, Balaam did the right thing by declining Balak’s request. However, when offered more money, Balaam should have said no. Instead, he went back to check if God would change His mind. Joseph fled from Potiphar’s Wife, saying, “I cannot sin against my God and my master” (Genesis 39:9). Entertaining temptation can block our view of paying attention to God, and resisting temptation in all forms is essential for our spiritual growth.
God desires our attention.
He wants to communicate with us, but sometimes, He might approach us in a way that we are not familiar with recognizing Him.
For instance, in the past, God used a donkey to draw Balaam’s attention.
Likewise, God can use various means, such as nature, family, friends, or anything else, to capture our attention.
Therefore, being attentive to God is important because God is seeking our attention.
May God bless God’s people.