Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Words that mean something

© 2016 Christy K Robinson

"This terrified wild donkey would not leave the firefighters sides yesterday
at the Willow Fire in Mohave Valley. Photo taken by my neighbor and friend,
Chief Bill Weber of the Desert Hills Fire District. The firefighters
sprayed the donkey down and he was safely removed from the danger.
Way to go guys!!!" --
Karen Kuehnel‎, to
Lake Havasu Living Magazine, August 9, 2015
When my friends and I were kids in Christian school, we weren't allowed to say "ass" unless it was the equine kind, and we were quoting from the Bible, as in "Balaam rose up and saddled his ass," or Joseph and Mary and the ass were traveling to Bethlehem. It was fine to say "donkey," of course, but where was the fun in that?

This photo came up in my Facebook "On This Day" app, and my comment was that "If you remember the story of Balaam and the donkey in the Old Testament, donkeys know angels when they see them."

The story is found in Numbers 22:21-35. Balaam was a non-Hebrew follower of Jehovah who lived in Moab, part of modern Jordan. The Moabites were distant cousins of the Hebrews (Moabites were descendants of Lot, the nephew of Abraham). The Hebrews, who had left Egypt 40 years before, were now conquering Canaan, their Promised Land. The Moabites were understandably nervous about such a large group trampling and possibly making war or claims on their land, and they refused to allow the Israelites to enter their territory. So they called on Balaam, the Moabite prophet of Jehovah, to sacrifice to God and curse the Israelites. Curses and blessings weren't just words. They were calling down God's actions on someone.

Balaam was willing to make some money off the Jordanian and Syrian kings, so he agreed to make animal sacrifices and talk with God, though he didn't promise what he could do or say. On his way to the rendezvous with his contact, Balak, the ass had some problems.

Unknown to Balaam, the donkey could see God's angel blocking the road, and in fright, she pushed up against a stone wall one time, and against a fence another time. Balaam beat her to make her move. Again with the scary angel, and the donkey refused to move, and lay down right under her rider. He beat her again, and that's when the donkey spoke human words to him.
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?” 29 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.” 30 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.”
He didn't seem very surprised at the donkey speaking his language, or perhaps that he understood the braying of hee-haw. Then God opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the angel with the sword, who told him to go on to meet Balak, but not to speak negatively about the Israelites--only what God told him to say.

Anyway, when I was a child, that was the end of the lesson. The moral was, be gentle and kind to animals. When I was older, the moral was not to disobey God and try to profit from a spiritual gift. 

But as a middle-aged adult who loves to find God's grace in a story, as I read the next chapters, I find that Balaam performed the requested sacrifices and then asked God what he should say about the Israelites, who he could see camped in the distance. He was told not to curse them, but bless them. He said that they were a strong people who would be victors in their conquest. On a different mountain with another seven bulls and seven rams sacrificed (the ass must have been worried at the bloodletting and burning of her barnyard colleagues), Balaam said,
Behold, I received a command to bless:
    he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it.
21 He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob,
    nor has he seen trouble in Israel.
The Lord their God is with them,
    and the shout of a king is among them.
22 God brings them out of Egypt
    and is for them like the horns of the wild ox.
23 For there is no enchantment against Jacob,
    no divination against Israel;
now it shall be said of Jacob and Israel,
    ‘What has God wrought!’
On a third day and a third mountain with another 14 animals sacrificed, Balaam gave a similar oracle, even more complimentary to the Israelites. He deeply disappointed the kings who had employed his services, and they refused to pay him. But Balaam, the independent prophet of God, seems to have found "his" people, and he left the kings and went to the Israelites. We don't hear of him again, probably because they had a priesthood, seers, and temple sacrifice system already in place.

So what love do we discover in this lesson from 3,300 years ago?
  • That God loves to love on us, for no other reason than that we are his children. 
  • That though we may think we're in crisis, God has not seen trouble. It's what God sees that counts, not what we see. 
  • That if someone blesses us (by prayer, or laying on of hands, or speaking God's words to us), it can't be revoked. 
  • That God is with us to fight our battles for us, not with us. For us. In our place.
  • That we are already victors, even when it's not immediately apparent. 
  • If God can bless us, we can bless others. We should want the best for God's children, and seek the blessing of God for them.
Words mean something. And Jesus was called the Word of God, "word" meaning an active verb, not a noun or nickname. God does, God acts, God is (one of the meanings of YHWH, "I Am.")

God has been blessing us, he is blessing us, and he always will bless us. It cannot be revoked. The curse of sin and death has been removed, and we are held in the tender arms of a Father who loves us.

Be like the little ass. Pay attention to the angels in the path, and if you can put a firefighter between yourself and the conflagration, or better yet, be the lifesaver, do it.

3 comments:

  1. Beautiful application! I might just have to share it somewhere (like class, worship, etc.)--giving credit where credit is due of course :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome to do so. May this article BLESS all those who hear or read it.

      Delete
  2. This was good for my soul. I'm contemplating about the wonder of blessings to me that can not be revoked. Further, I'm even more encouraged to live boldly with the strength of Christ, acting on every opportunity to bless others.

    ReplyDelete

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