I am a lover of pets! When I was a kid I would always beg and beg and beg for a dog. When I was four years old my parents came home with this weird-looking creature that I didn’t know what to make of. It was small, and pink, and smelled funny. It couldn’t eat on its own, it didn’t know how to use a bathroom, and it was too young to really understand the concept of playing. But here we are, 20 years later, and I’ve learned to love my little sister haha. All jokes aside, my sister and I always wanted pets. We had a bird, then a hamster, and a cat, but we didn’t love any of them as much as we loved our Field Spaniel we named Odin.
He was so small and cute, and fun to play with. My family has had our dog for about 6 years now and he has definitely become part of the family. With me having moved about 4 hours from home for work, and my sister studying abroad, our dog keeps my mom and dad company. My mom seems to enjoy his company the most and often talks to him swearing he understands all her problems. There’s another story in the Bible about a famous talking animal, and it’s the story of Balaam and his Donkey.
This is Numbers chapter 22; before Jericho takes place; before the crossing of the Jordan happens. The Israelites are finishing their 40 year trek through the desert, and are now in the process of entering into the Promised Land of Canaan. Before they cross into Canaan though there are a couple of cities and kingdoms East of the Jordan that stand in their way and in direct opposition of the Israelite goals of conquest. One of these nations happens to be the nation of Moab, who is reigned by a king named Balak.
The Israelites had brutally defeated the Amorite kings Og and Sihon, enemies the Moabites had had numerous encounters with, and lost. If these Israelites could somehow defeat the Amorites who had defeated the Moabites countless times over, then what chance did they have against this invading people? Scared of what these former slaves would do to them, the leaders of Moab convened together to discuss their predicament. Balak, the king of Moab, remembers this diviner who lives in Pethor, and sends messengers with a special request for this diviner, Balaam.
Money Can’t Buy Blessings
The elders and messengers reach Balaam and relay the message in verse 11, “A people that has come out of Egypt covers the face of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me. Perhaps then I will be able to fight them and drive them away.” Most prophets, magicians, and diviners lived off the gifts given to them for their council and service. The Moabites had paid for the service, and so contract would dictate that they should receive what they had paid for. But God’s blessings can’t be bought. We can’t bribe or barter blessings from God no matter what we offer Him.
Have you ever been on your knees, and prayed to God with an ultimatum? You know, where we barter with God, asking Him for something, and promising Him something in return? “God, I really want this, and I promise, if you answer my prayer I’ll start…praying more…going to church…reading my bible…or I’ll stop doing this…or going there…” But God doesn’t work like that, God can’t be bartered with. Nothing we do can earn us or grant us God’s blessings. God doesn’t give His blessings only on the contingency that you be a good person, His blessings are just a side-effect of being in His presence. God won’t give you anything that goes against His purposes for your life either.
Sometimes we convince ourselves of God’s will just because of the benefits we may receive. God had worked through Balaam before. God had blessed him in his service with the foreign nations, and God had never had an issue with Balaam receiving financial compensation for His services. So why was this time different? Didn’t God want Balaam to be happy? To be rich? To be blessed? To use his gifts for ministry? It doesn’t matter how great a deal may seem, if it’s not for our eternal benefit, God can’t bless it. No amount of money, or benefits can convince God to bless us on a path of self-destruction.
Don’t Beat the Donkey
God allows Balaam to go with them on the condition that he only say whatever God tells him to say. But somewhere along the journey Balaam changes his mind and decides to go for the money. God then proceeds to frustrate Balaam’s journey and places an angel in the way. The donkey is the only one to see the angel, and strays off the path. The angel gets in the way a second time, and the donkey veers off the road crushing Balaam’s foot on a fence. And a third time the angel gets in the way, and the donkey, with nowhere to turn, just sits.
27 Balaam lost his temper; he beat the donkey with his stick. 28 Then God gave speech to the donkey. She said to Balaam: ‘What have I ever done to you that you have beat me these three times?’ 29 Balaam said, ‘Because you’ve been playing games with me! If I had a sword I would have killed you by now.’ 30 The donkey said to Balaam, ‘Am I not your trusty donkey on whom you’ve ridden for years right up until now? Have I ever done anything like this to you before? Have I?’ Balaam responded, ‘No.’
Balaam failed to see the armed angel standing in the way; he failed to understand why his plans were being frustrated, and his first response was to beat the donkey. But when things go wrong in your life, don’t beat the donkey. Sometimes our plans are frustrated, sometimes things don’t go the way we want them to go, and we immediately begin to blame the medium. Balaam blamed the donkey for everything that was going wrong on this journey. Not once in all the years he’d travelled on her, and ridden on her, had she been troublesome, or disobedient, or done anything like what happened that day, but in his frustration and anger all the years of proven faithfulness were thrown out the window and he blamed her and beat her.
We do the same with God. Sometimes things don’t go our way. Sometimes our plans are frustrated, and it seems like God is veering off the path, or crushing our foot, or just sitting down on us. Sometimes it seems like God is failing us and we begin to beat God. We berate Him, and yell at Him, and complain to Him, and blame Him for everything that isn’t going right in our lives. When we don’t get the answers to our prayers, or when God seems to be taking too long, or when prayer doesn’t seem to do anything we blame prayer. We stop praying thinking it does nothing. We beat prayer for not working the way we want it to when we want it to.
Despite God proving time and time again, that He always works towards our good. Despite Him proving that sometimes He frustrates our plans today so that He can do amazing wonders among us tomorrow. Despite all the years of God’s faithfulness in our lives. When one thing goes wrong, aren’t we quick to blame God, and beat the donkey? God has been faithful; God does answer our prayers; God does perform miracles in our lives, and sometimes we can’t see the good He’s working for our lives. Sometimes God does amazing things in our lives, and we don’t even notice. We complain about the one thing that goes wrong in our lives, not knowing that this week alone, God prevented 30 other things from going wrong.
God is faithful and has always been faithful. When prayer doesn’t seem to work, when God doesn’t seem to answer, when things don’t go our way, don’t beat the donkey. Trust that if God has been faithful, He will continue to be faithful! Trust that God is guiding you throughout this journey. Trust that if we seem to veer from the easy path, that if we face a couple of difficulties, that if we seem to come to a complete halt, that God is doing this to prevent us from total disaster. Sometimes God gets in the way to show us the way!
Sometimes God’s Answer is No
God always answers, and sometimes the answer is no. Like Balaam some of us are embarked on a journey that is in direct contradiction with God. Some of us know that what we’re doing is wrong and some of us have no idea that the road we’ve chosen is wrong. When we’re embarked on a journey that goes against God, we are on a dangerous road that threatens our spiritual health and the eternity that God wants to spend with us. God answers our prayers with a “no” sometimes because He doesn’t want us to risk our spiritual health and be in danger of losing the promise of Heaven and God’s eternity.
God doesn’t say “no” out of selfishness or spite, or anger. When God says no, it’s because it’s for our good, whether we can see it yet or not. God also may say no, because He has something far better down the road. Romans 8 “18I don’t believe there is any comparison with our present sufferings, and the glory of the good to be revealed in us. 27God’s Spirit is right along helping us. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our every condition and keeps us present before God. This is why, through faith, we can be sure that for those who love God and are called into His purpose God works every little detail for our good.”
Paul understood that our entire lifetime of suffering, even if it were filled with suffering every second of every day for us, is still nothing compared to the eternity of the goodness God has prepared for us. I know right now your suffering doesn’t feel like nothing; I know right now what you’re going through seems like it will never end; I know right now that your frustration seems like far too much for you to handle, but God’s promise is that one day, when this world is all over with, when sin has been completely eradicated, and when Jesus returns to claims us into His kingdom, we are going to look back, and laugh at what we thought was too much.
We are going to look back at the years we struggled and get to see all the amazing things God was doing in the background. We are going to get to see all the answers God gave us that we didn’t realize. We are going to get to see all the times God frustrated our plans for our protection. We are going to consider the sufferings we went through as nothing compared to the glory we experience in His kingdom. God is too good to let us go through our paths of self-destruction. If God’s answer is no, I have to trust, in faith, based on all the years that God has come through for me before, that His “no” is for my good.
It can be frustrating and discouraging when we hear a no, but we have to trust that whatever His answer is, it is for our ultimate good, as difficult as it may be because whether we understand the details of His no in this life, or in the next, God is always working for our benefit. We may be impressed by talking donkeys, but the greatest miracle in this story is that God loves us enough to get in the way when we’re going the wrong way.
God help me to be dedicated towards your purposes. Help me to choose your way no matter what we feel we may miss out on. I thank you for being so loving that you’d be willing to get in the way to show me the way. Help me to remain faithful and not be frustrated when things don’t seem to go my way. Help me to trust that you are working my frustrations for good. Help me to accept when your answer is no, believing that whatever I suffer today is nothing compared to the glory you are revealing in me. Amen.