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Friday, March 5, 2010

Day 64: Stubborn as a Mule?

Today's Reading: Numbers 23-25

Yesterday and today, we have read the story of Balaam, a prophet of God, who was summoned by Balak, the king of Moab. Balak, whose name means "devastator," wanted a man of God to come along side him and tell Balak exactly what Balak wanted to hear. Balak wanted to rein God's prophet in the way he wanted God to go. Balak wanted to manipulate God.

Balak sends his messengers to Balaam hoping to hear a word from the LORD favorable for Balak and the Moabites. Balak, a baal worshipper, wants the LORD of Israel to curse the Israelites.

Balaam, the prophet, consults God. God clearly tells Balaam not to align himself with Balak and his people. God is blessing Israel and will not curse them. Balaam faithfully delivers this message to Balak's messengers, despite bribery.

Since the messengers of Balak do not like the message, Balaam receives reluctant permission from God to deliver the message directly to Balak. Balaam sets off on his donkey, reining him toward Balak and Moab, a people who are stubborn and who will not listen to God's word.

Three times along the way, Balaam's donkey sees the angel of the LORD blocking Balaam's path. Despite the beatings of Balaam, the faithful donkey stubbornly refuses to challenge God's angel messenger. Balaam tries to rein the donkey in a direction contrary to God's will. The donkey refuses, and is given voice to speak truth to Balaam.

This experience becomes the prophetic parable for Balaam.

When Balaam arrives in Moab, Balak tries to rein Balaam in the direction contrary to God's will. Despite three rounds of mocking, sacrificial rituals and offers of monetary bribes, Balaam, like his donkey, refuses to budge. Balaam will speak the truth of the LORD to Balak, whether he wants to hear it or not.

Twice in this story, Balaam, the prophet speaks a powerful message of warning to any of us who would represent God to the world.

"Though Balak [the Devastator] were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything contrary to the command of the LORD, either good or bad, [great or small] of my own accord [contrary to the command of the LORD my God.] What the LORD speaks, that I will speak."
Numbers 22:18, 24:13

Despite the reining and beating Balaam inflicts upon his donkey, the donkey stubbornly refuses to challenge the angel of the LORD. The donkey will be faithful to his master, keeping him from danger even when threatened with death.

Despite bribery and persistent attempts of the Devastator to turn God's prophet away from God's word, God's prophet stubbornly refuses to speak contrary to the command of the LORD. What the LORD speaks, he will speak.

Despite the disobedience and the ingratitude of God's chosen people Israel, their LORD stubbornly refuses to curse them. God will bless God's people because God wills it.

Lord, take the reins. Make me like a stubborn, faithful donkey when it comes to your will. Do not allow another to rein me. Do not allow persistent attempts or bribery of the Devastator to ever mean more to me than your Word.

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