God had made his will known to Balaam. Balaam had made his will known to God. Unfortunately, the two were not synonymous.
Balaam was up in the morning, getting his donkey ready for a ride. He was on his way to give his best shot at gathering a portion of the riches and honor of King Balak by prophesying against God’s people, Israel. So Balaam saddled his donkey and set off with the princes of Moab.
Although the Lord had told Balaam to go ahead and do what he wanted to do, it was more of a “Fine. You’re going to do what you want no matter what I say.” more than a “Yes, go with my blessing.”
On the way, Balaam came up against a wall—well, really he came up against an angel. His donkey, having eyes more open than her master’s eyes, turned away from the angel and walked into a field. Her reward for sparing her master? A beating.
The angel tried again, and this time Balaam was literally up against a wall. He was riding down a narrow path in the vineyards, lined on either side by a wall. It was a perfect place for a roadblock. The angel stood in the way, and the donkey turned aside, only to run Balaam’s foot into the wall. Her reward for sparing her master a second time? Another beating.
The angel tried again. Now there was no turning to the right hand or to the left. If we do not notice our duty in wide places, the Lord will narrow it down for us until there is no doubt: “This is the way; walk ye in it”! The poor donkey, not knowing what else to do, fell down under Balaam. He responded by hitting her again.
And the Lord gave the donkey a voice to reprove her master. Now Balaam should be thinking twice, for sure—right? But, no, he just argues with the poor animal. How blind we can become by persisting in paths where we were not bidden by God!
Finally, Balaam’s eyes were opened, so to speak. He notices the angel and bows down. Now the angel reproves him. Balaam replied, “I’m sorry—I did not know that you were there to stop me. If you’re not okay with this, I’ll turn around now.”
But the angel replied, “No, go with the men; but you will say what I tell you to.”
This is often where the story ends—but it did not end there. What happened next is the most beautiful part…
*** VBS—The Land of Milk & Honey talks of God’s law, the Ten Commandments, and of some of the Israelites’ experiences on their way to the Promised Land—their encounter with Balaam and the Moabites being just one of them. Find it here. ***