Then the angel of the Lord went ahead and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam. And Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.” And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?” And he said, “No.”
Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face. – Numbers 22:26-31 (ESV)
Ever since my youth, I have loved this passage of scripture. To a child, there is something pretty amazing about a Bible account that involves a talking donkey humiliating an angry owner with a stick. Years later, I still maintain that sentiment, yet as an adult I also realize there is a wide swath of wisdom to be gained from the account of Balaam, Balak and the Israelites. In the passage above, Balaam’s journey is suffering delay due to what he perceives to be an insolent donkey. This donkey has angered Balaam to the point of a volatile and violent outburst. So much so that when God gives the donkey the ability to speak, Balaam completely ignores the fact that he is discoursing with an donkey. Instead he attempts to speak rationally (?) with the animal, explaining why he has resorted to violence.
I’ll give you a moment to process that.
Just in case, here’s another moment.
Now, let’s think about this together. You’re travelling on your way, and your donkey is not cooperating. You become angry. You strike him. He speaks to you. And you converse with him??
I don’t know about you, but if an donkey started speaking to me, everything would stop. Including my power of speech. Further, I’m pretty certain that my anger would be quickly overcome by fear or outright terror. While cute to watch on television, a talking animal in real life would conjure up quite a few scary scenarios within my mind.
But, apparently not Balaam.
Balaam was so consumed by anger that he could not discern that something out of the ordinary was taking place right underneath him. Further, because of his anger, he was unable to discern that something immediately ahead of him was very wrong, and very, very dangerous.
I wonder how many talking donkeys we have tried to talk to.
Verse 29 of the same passage in the Message Version of the Bibles reads as such:
Balaam said, “Because you’ve been playing games with me! If I had a sword I would have killed you by now.” (emphasis mine)
This passage demonstrates that the root cause of Balaam’s anger was pride. How often have we thought, “How dare you!” in response to a perceived slight. It is most likely true that the second half of that thought would likely indicate a perceived attack that wounded our pride, or rather, our perception that you have failed to treat, love, respect, or respond to us in the positive way that we feel we deserve.
Parents respond in anger to children because we feel as if they are “playing games” with us. Spouses respond in anger to adults because we don’t feel like “playing games”.
But like Balaam, anger not only clouds our judgment, it also clouds our vision. In our anger, we are more prone to negatively address the immediate cause of our ire, instead of prayerfully seeking guidance regarding the root cause of both the situation, and our desire to react so adversely. Immediately before my husband’s and my separation there was little denying the ease with which we would become angry with the other. Both of us felt disrespected, and in response, neither of us offered respect. Because we were so involved with our own perceptions of received slights, we ceased seeking God for the root cause of our individual poor responses, or the climate in which we suddenly found our marriage. We also failed to respond to our children’s need to be protected from the anger we so easily spewed forth. Like Balaam we had our eyes fixed on only one direction, forward. And when forward didn’t seem as if it could be accomplished together, we silently determined to accomplish it apart. Our anger kept us from honestly evaluating our own feelings and those of the other. In our anger we did not see the very, very dangerous outcome ahead of us. Like Balaam, we did not stop and realize that we were talking to donkeys. Because if we would have, perhaps we would have become adequately fearful, and in our fear, turned to our attention, and our hearts, upward toward God. And then, perhaps He could have opened our eyes, and we would have seen His glory and heard his wisdom.
Join me today in praying that each of us would choose to seek God for wisdom and discernment, instead of submitting to anger, choices we may regret, or damaging conversation.
For further study: Proverbs 16:18, Ephesians 4:24-32, Jonah 4
To continue to prayer on this subject go to today’s Daily Hope & Prayer.