Old Testament: Numbers 22:21-23:30
Numbers 22:21-41 The Talking Donkey
You don’t think God has a sense of humor? This has got to be one of the funniest stories of all time! Did you notice in the heading I tried to avoid using the “a” word? I didn’t want anyone to be offended but, of course, the sacred and beloved King James uses the “a” word. I refuse to drop to those kind of depths.
Anyway, we’ve seen Balaam already. He was a prophet for hire. In the New Testament he’d be called a “hireling” or a “hired hand” (“He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. John 10:12-13). Later the Israelites offed him (Josh. 13:22).
As we last left our anti-hero, he had asked Yahweh a second time if he could negotiate with Balak, the pagan king. Yahweh allowed him to go but that didn’t mean He wanted him to go. In v. 22 it says Elohim was “angry.” It says “the angel of the Lord” took His stand against Balaam as “an adversary.” The Angel is a Christophany, Jesus Christ Himself. The donkey Balaam was riding saw the Angel of the Lord and walked off the road into a field. Balaam struck the donkey to get him back onto the road. The Angel stood where there were walls on both sides of the road. The donkey tried to squeeze by Him but crushed Balaam’s leg in the process. That earned the donkey another beating. The Angel moved further away where the road was even more narrow due to the walls. So the donkey then laid down. Balaam, the great seer could not see the Angel and was enraged. He beat the poor animal with a stick.
The Lord allowed the donkey to talk back. “What the heck? What have I done to you that you would beat me three times?” Balaam didn’t seem surprised. Perhaps he had run into talking animals before (cf. Gen. 3:1). He claimed the donkey had mocked him. Ha! He didn’t know that the donkey would make him famous or infamous throughout all time! The donkey asked if he had ever done anything like that all the years that Balaam had been riding him. Balaam answered, “ah . . . no.”
Then Yahweh opened the eyes of Balaam and he saw the Angel of the Lord standing in front of him with His sword drawn. The Angel asked why he had beaten his donkey. He explained if the donkey hadn’t stopped Balaam, He would have offed him. Balaam said, “Sorry. If you want, I can turn around and go back.” The Angel told him it was OK to proceed but to only tell Balak what he was told by Yahweh.
When Balak heard that Balaam was coming he went out to meet him in the city of Moab. Balak was ticked it took Balaam so long to get back to him. Balaam told him again that he could only say what Elohim wanted him to say. And he does. He speaks three oracles over Israel, all positive.
Numbers 23:1-30 Another Donkey Speaks
Balaam had Balak offer a bull and a ram and then he could see what Yahweh would do. Elohim met Balaam and gave him words to say. Balaam pronounced three blessings on Israel (Num. 23:7-10, 18–24; 24:3–9). Balak is irritated that Balaam isn’t cursing Israel instead. In the first blessing, Balaam says Israel would be set apart from other nations (Nu. 23: 9), Israel’s people would be as numerous as the dust of the earth (Num. 23:10), and that he, Balaam, wishes he was an Israelite (Num. 23:10).
BTW, Numbers 23:19 is a terrific memory verse. I learned it in the Revised Standard Version which is similar to the contemporary English Standard Version. “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should repent. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfil it?”
Balak was so disappointed after the first blessing, he suggested they all go up to the top of Pisgah and try again. After the second blessing, Balak suggested they try again on the top of Peor. But Balaam blesses Israel again, even emphasizing that Satan cannot reverse the blessing (Num. 23:23).
New Testament: Luke 1:26-56
Luke 1:57-66 “John’s First Birthday”
All of Elizabeth’s friends were happy that she was having a son especially since she had been barren. As we know from reading the Old Testament, John was to be circumcised on the eighth day (Lev. 12:3) anniversary of his birth. They were going to call the boy Zechariah after his father but Elizabeth corrected them and said his name would be John. No one believed her so they signaled to his father to see if it was OK. Remember the angel had turned on Zeke’s mute button. So he had to write on a tablet that Elizabeth had the right idea. Everyone was amazed but not so much as Zeke started talking again! He praised the Lord. The phone lines started burning as everyone started relaying the news about all that had happened. They wondered what in snicker doodle would happen next.
Luke 1:67-80 Zeke Prophesies
Zeke was filled with the Holy Spirit. He quoted the Old Testament sixteen times. Can you find them? He predicts the coming of the Messiah the one called to announce His coming. That person is his very own son, John. Luke 1:73 mentions the “oath” or covenant to Abraham. John’s birth and ministry prepare the way for the Messiah who will eventually be the fulfillment of all the promises to Abraham (cf. Gen. 22:16-18). All of Zachariah’s prophecy echoes Malachi 4, the last chapter of the Old Testament. Especially note Luke 1:78-79 vs. Malachi 4:2. This section speaks of redemption or salvation in Luke 1: 68-69, 71, 74, and 77.
John grew up and was spiritually strong. He lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to all Israel some thirty years later.
Psalm 58:1-11 A Lament Psalm by David
Psalm 58:1-11 Slug ‘Em
Psalm 35 was an imprecatory psalm (see Big Brother, Part 1). Psalm 58 today and Psalm 59 are also imprecatory psalms. So are psalms 5, 10, 17, 69, 70, 79, 83, 109, 129, 137, and 140. They are prayers that bad things happen to bad people.
I know what you’re thinking, how can we pray bad things happen to bad people when God tells us to leave retribution to Him (cf. Rom. 12:19)? First, I think it’s OK, to vent and tell God what’s itching you (cf. Ps. 62:8). Secondly, you can pray imprecatory psalms and leave it up to God whether He answers your prayer or not. With that in mind . . .
David has a contention with some bad judges and politicians (v. 1). They are dirty (vv. 2-5). We have some like that right now. They are out of control (v. 5). They are like Satan. They are compared to serpents (vv. 4-5) and lions (v. 6), both figures of speech associated with the devil (cf. Gen. 3:1; Rev. 20:2; 1 Pet. 5:8).
- David asks that God breaks their teeth (v. 6). He could have just prayed that they see a bad dentist. There are plenty of them around.
- David then asks that they become like a flood that carries them away from him and that their weaponry misfires and implodes (v. 7).
- He asks that they are like a slug that leaves slime behind that evaporates in the sun (v. 8)
- He asks that their assault is like trying to spark a fire but the wind keeps blowing it out (v. 9)
We will eventually be able to rejoice. God is for us (see God Is For Me). God will glorify Himself (cf. John 16:14). He will show the world that He is righteous! Keep praying!
Proverbs 11:12-13 Just Walk Away
When I get mad at someone, my wife gives me good advice, “Just Walk Away.” Solomon is saying the same thing, “Just shut up” (v. 11). Then you can count to ten or have a cup of ice water, whatever.
No one likes a gossip. Lots of Christians gossip when they share prayer requests. Don’t share a lot of prayer requests. Just shut up. Just walk away if you are prone to do that sort of thing. Be “trustworthy.” “Conceal [the] matter” ! (v. 13).
Choose Life: Scripture: Numbers 23:19 NASB “Wisdom From An Ass”
“God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” Numbers 23:19
It’s funny that one of the greatest pieces of wisdom would crop up in the funniest story in the Bible. But it did. And funny that it would come out of the mouth of Balaam who had to take wisdom lessons from an actual ass, you know, a donkey. When you read the story of Balaam, of course, you have to ask, “Who is the actual ass?”
Anyway, despite what Balaam tells King Balak, what Balaam really wants to do is curse Israel so he can make some money off the deal. There are some preachers like that today. Balaam did not come to a good end (Josh. 13:22; Jude 11).
What Balaam tells Balak is actually some really good stuff.
1) God is not like man (cf. Isa. 55:8)
2) God doesn’t ever lie, He is Truth (cf. John 14:6)
3) He doesn’t have any sin so He doesn’t have to change to measure up to righteousness, He is Righteousness (Mal. 4: 2)
4) If God says He will do something, He will do it (cf. 1 Thes. 5:24, e.g.)
If God promises anything in His Word, He will fulfill it. Are you trusting God for a promise today?
If you are, you will find that you are choosing life (Deut. 30:19)!
Fun Application: The famous preacher, Vance Havner, said that too many are sitting on the premises instead of trusting God for His promises. Use your concordance or Bible software and find three things that you could be trusting God for today.
The purpose of the “Choose Life” is to pick a positive help out of the One Year Bible (OYB) reading plan for the day. There is always something positive in the Word of God to cheer us and give us strength. For more on today’s reading, check out my One Year Bible blog: The Talking Donkey (Funniest Story in the Bible)