Who’s the Real Donkey Here?

So last week, we left off with the Israelites destroying the Amorites. They left Mt. Hor, went around Edom, and are now settling in the plains of Moab as we’re about to see. Let’s start right off by reading Numbers 22:1-6. Balak is completely messed up, and it makes sense, because he doesn’t know God. This what happens when people don’t know God. They get fearful and end up preforming crazy acts.

Specifically look at Balak, there are a couple of reasons he has no reason to fear.

  1. So far, Israel has yet to pick a fight with anybody. After they were denied passage through Edom, they settle in their minds to go around Edom. As they’re about to leave, the king of Arad picks a fight with them and captures some Israelites and God allows Israel to destroy this group of Canaanites. Then as they go on their journey, they ask Kind Sihon of the Amorites for passage and he attacks the Israelites. So the Israelites destroy them. This freaks out King Og of Bashan and instead of allowing the Israelites to offer some sort of diplomacy like they did with Edom and then King Sihon, he just attacks, but once again Israel wins.
  2. As we’ve just seen, Israel has not sent anyone to Balak to offer any kind of diplomacy. Why? Because Israel isn’t going in that direction. In fact, Israel could care less about Moab right now. They want to head west to get to Canaan. Balak can literally sit there and not worry about a thing… but he doesn’t. He is without God, and has allowed fear to take over.

Never estimate the stupidity and hatred within our actions when we’re led by fear. The only smart think Balak knows is that he can’t defeat the Israelites, but he doesn’t have to. Once again he can just let them be, but no, he grabs a “diviner” to “aid” in the situation. Here’s the key, though, when he gets the diviner, Balak’s plan isn’t to get advice on what to do to maybe appease whatever god this group from Egypt is following. No, instead, he decides to have a curse thrown om these people.

Here we’re introduced to a “mysterious person”. By this, I mean a person who knows God, but is not a descendant of Abraham. We have seen this before in Melchizedek (priest of Salem who Abraham tithes the spoil of a battle) and Jethro (Moses’ father-in-law, the priest of Midian). It doesn’t seem as though the person we are about to meet acts as a priest as we have come to learn, but as a prophet. Another significant difference is it seems as though this person we’re about to “meet” likes to do this more for hos personal gain, than for the joy of obeying God.

Look at Numbers 22:7-14. When God asks Balaam who these men are, it’s not that God doesn’t know who they are, but is trying to show Balaam the true nature of Balaam’s heart. If God ever asks you a question like this, he already knows and is asking you to rethink for yourself. All Balaam sees is the “diviner fee”. Note his response after he talks to God. Balaam simply says that God won’t allow him to go with them. What did God really say, though? Yes, he can’t go with them, but it is because Balaam can’t curse them as they are blessed. By Balaam being disingenuous in his response, is actually showing his greed. He knows that these guys will probably come back with a larger offer. And sure enough, that’s what happens.

Look at NUmbers 22:15-19. Send “more honorable” princes, also meant “wealthier” and Balaam seeing the desperation says, “Though Balak were to give me his house fill of silver and gold…”, is a thinly veiled counteroffer. Just as Balak was correct in only one thing (he couldn’t defeat the Israelites), Balaam is only correct in the fact that he can’t go beyond the command of the Lord. However, everything Balaam says here is a carnal, and lacks any true spiritual meat and discernment. He’s already received his instruction from God, but Balaam can’t let up. He’s allowed greed to overtake him.

Then all of a sudden it seems as though we have a time where God changes his mind, but that’s not the case. Look at Numbers 22:20-22. God didn’t change His mind, He allows Balaam to go to bring judgment against Balaam for being disobedient and flirting with temptation. This also explains the anger when God clearly said Balaam could go. The anger here is towards Balaam rejoicing in a time of disobedience. Balaam had the thought of, “I got God to change His mind.” This is not how God works.

Later, Balaam will speak these words into our earthly existence in Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man that he should lie, nor a son of man that he should change his mind.” Balaam being a prophet of God already knows this, but has decided to go against what he knows about God. Instead he lets greed override.

If God has clearly closed a door, and we try to banter with him to “change His mind”, and He “does”, be prepared for some judgment and tough times. God is about to teach, and we’re about to learn the hard way.

Read Numbers 22:23 (the donkey is technically more spiritually perceptive than Balaam). 24-29. Balaam doesn’t even bat an eyelash at the fact that a donkey just talked to him! Balaam is not doing well! 30-33, we have talked about this before, but the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament is what is known as the pre-incarnate form of Jesus, and  this is a piece of evidence for that. The triune Godhead (Father, Son, and Spirit) is the basis of all authority. So if a “common” angel were to say that our way is perverse before them doesn’t have much pull as they are not our judge. However, Jesus is our judge according to John 5:22, so for the Angel of the Lord to say that Balaam’s ways are perverse before him, indicates that this is Christ.

You’d think this would be a clear wake up call for Balaam… you’d think!

Numbers 22:34… this is a half-hearted confession. It’s almost as if Balaam is saying it to get God off his back. And it’s confirmed in his last sentence there. “If it is evil in your sight…” IF??!!?? Balaam is just not getting it, so once again, the Lord isn’t changing His mind, but allows Balaam to continue on in his judgment Numbers 22:35

Balaam continues on his way and you have a meeting of the dumb… one being led by fear, the other by greed. This should go real well! Read vv 36-41. There’s probably two things “at play” in Balaam’s mind here.

  1. He does believe that he can only say what God will allow him to say and
  2.  He wants Balak to know that if it doesn’t go Balak’s way, it’s not Balaam’s fault and Balaam is still due his “fee”.

So after these two meet, the prophecies (or as your Bible might say, oracles) begin.

Look at Numbers 23:1-6. It seems a bit surprising that with all the stupid things Balaam has done that God could still speak through him. However remember what Romans 11:29 says, “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Balaam was a prophet, and God would still speak through him. Also don’t underestimate the power of the Word of God. Even if Balaam was doing this solely for personal gain, the Word of God would be given.

Look at what Paul says in Philippians 1:15-18 (pieced together) Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry… (They) proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely… What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

Balaam was doing this totally out of selfish gain, it is not our ideal situation, but the Word of God was still proclaimed.

Now, get comfortable here, and press on and read through these oracles. Numbers 23:7-24:25 (come on, you can do it!)

Note that neither of these two men were killed right then and there for their unrighteous acts (though Balaam will die at the hands of the Israelites), however, neither received what they wanted. Balak didn’t get a cursed nation, and Balaam didn’t get any money.

We need to realize the protection of the Lord, even when we are unaware of it. The Israelites had no idea what was going on around them. They had no clue that a king was trying to destroy them spiritually because he couldn’t do it physically. Nehemiah 13:2 states, “(The Moabites) hired Balaam against them to curse them– yet our God turned the curse into a blessing.”

We can see the frustration we end up with when we allow fear and greed to lead our lives, but the blessings that come when we give everything up to God and allow Him to lead are life giving. 

Think about it, Balak and Balaam are negative footnotes of history, while Israel is still a nation to this day. Many have come against Israel, and yet, God still keeps them intact. He’ll keep you intact, too.

There is only frustration when we are led by fear and greed, we see it in history, we see it in our society today.

Don’t be led by fear– Lean on Jesus.
Don’t be led by greed– Follow God’s Word.


What you miss by reading only and not getting to HEAR the messages is HUGE. Did you know that Pastor had a light saber in church today!? Well, he did…


If you are in the St. James area and you’d like to hear these sermons in person, please join us Sunday mornings at 10a at 721 Weston Ave in St. James, MN. We do not currently have an internet podcast, although we do record the message. Drop in and request your copy. 

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