Last time we looked at Balaam, a guy quite full of himself–confident, powerful, internationally famous, a big wheel [see Numbers 22].
In his sphere of influence, Balaam was “The Man.” People didn’t just come to see him from miles around, but from countries around. For his guidance and wisdom, he was a power broker in the realm of kings and rulers.
He was also arrogant, no doubt because he was so highly respected and sought after.
So when God wanted to convey His wish to Balaam, the man couldn’t get the message. Not until God empowered Balaam’s abused donkey to literally speak and confront his master.
There’s a lot we can learn from Balaam. In every sermon, speech or presentation that I’ve heard him invoked, the general gist is: Don’t be like Balaam! OK, fair enough.
Beware The Working End
But what about the ass, the real ass of the story, Balaam’s donkey? Him we don’t hear preached about, as if there are no lessons to be learned from him. Yet, how often do you, O, Youth Minister, feel as if you’re the donkey? Regrettably, I can count way more churches where the “senior” pastor(s) behaved more like Balaam than they’d ever admit. Leaving the more “junior” Youth Minister to fill in the role of Balaam’s ass.
There’s got to be a better way, but it takes humility and openness on the part of the usually older “senior” minister to hear God’s truth. Of course, if you–the junior member of the team–are called on by God to convey a critical (both in sense of timing and tone) message, then it takes courage and purposefulness. Perhaps even some well-placed umbrage, because you are certainly going to get whacked a few times in the process, just as Balaam’s ass was. Even then, there’s no guarantee that God’s message, whatever it be, will be received. But if you don’t blurt out what needs to be said, then you’ll just look for another church to move to. Or abandon ministry altogether. You must step up and into this.
Don’t sign up for it. But be prepared for it when it comes. It will come.
So, when it does…bray. Bray loud. Like an ass.
Engage here. Too strong? Offensive idea? Or something you can relate to? Is there someone in your life whose very faith was shattered by the need to play the donkey?
It is not uncommon in the community of faith to find those who wish for “signs and wonders,” by which they may more clearly know the will of God in their lives. Indeed, if you have been a Christian very long, it is very likely you’ve wished–even pleaded–for this. Consider:
What career should I pursue, Lord?
Are you calling me to ministry?
Is this the person you want me to marry?
Should we really move all the way across the country for that job?
Are we really going to lose the house?
Won’t you intervene, God, in this health crisis?
Will my child ever turn back to you?
Why is this happening to me?
People that are very dear to me strongly believe that God answers them, quite directly, when they inquire of Him in this way. Who am I to say that He does not?
Yet great theologians, like Jonathan Edwards, caution against such thinking:
“And yet some people actually imagine that the revelation in God’s Word is not enough to meet our needs. They think that God from time to time carries on an actual conversation with them, chatting with them, satisfying their doubts, testifying to His love for them, promising them support and blessings. As a result, their emotions soar; they are full of bubbling joy that is mixed with self-confidence and a high opinion of themselves. The foundation for these feelings, however, does not lie within the Bible itself, but instead rests on the sudden creations of their imaginations. These people are clearly deluded. God’s Word is for all of us and each of us; He does not need to give particular messages to particular people.” ― Jonathan Edwards
Here’s the rub. Can God deliver a custom message to someone? Yep! But if we’re the someone, do we really want to receive it? Maybe not so much. Consider the moronic and very pagan prophet, Balaam, who in Numbers 22 is met 3 times by God trying to tell him something. Balaam can’t figure out it’s the Almighty communicating. We learn that Balaam’s ass is smarter that his owner. The donkey is finally empowered to yell at his abusive boss.
Good thing we’re never as headstrong as Balaam, isn’t it?
Or are we?
Edwards questions those “particular messages” from God that promise support and blessings. But what if the Divine Message is of a less-uplifting kind? What if God is speaking to us in the events of our lives, even the negative ones?
Are we listening?
Engage here. What do you think? Anyone in your life that needs to confront their Balaam?