Now the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand, and the donkey turned aside out of the way and went into the field. So Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back onto the road. (Numbers 22:23)
This is perhaps one of the strangest events in the Bible, so much so, that many commentators think it must have transpired as a dream or a vision. On the other hand, many commentators take these verses as literal because, in the end, nothing is impossible with God. If you think about it, it’s no more miraculous than a speaking serpent or any of the other strange and “miraculous” phenomena noted in Scripture. But while we tend to focus on whether a donkey can talk or not, the point is what was going on that made it necessary for the donkey to speak in the first place — Balaam was plotting against God’s will.
Interestingly, the seer could not see the angel but the beast of burden could and that is why the donkey turned away and went into a field. After being beaten, the donkey is forced by the angel to run into a wall crushing Balaam’s foot in the process and prompting another beating. Finally the angel positions himself so that the donkey can not move to the right or left — he and Balaam are pinned in. In other words, as Balaam stubbornly edged closer to death, his path grew so narrow he no longer had room to maneuver — God was trying to get his attention. The fact that his foot was crushed is interesting because his foot, it would seem was intent on running to evil. Consider this passage from Proverbs:
“My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, ‘Come with us, let us lie in wait to shed blood; let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause; let us swallow them alive like Sheol, and whole, like those who go down to the Pit. We shall find all kinds of precious possessions, we shall fill our houses with spoil; cast in your lot among us, let us all have one purse.‟ My son, do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path; for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood.” (Proverbs 1:10-16)
This is exactly what Balaam was doing in spite of saying he would only say what God instructed him to say. The point, then, is we must be honest with ourselves when our hearts are compelling us to satisfy our own lusts and desires. We need to “see” those obstacles that God places in our path to oppose our way, understanding that the obstacles are for our benefit — our very lives perhaps. So if and when we find ourselves in this internal struggle — desiring to satisfy the flesh — let us pray that God will open our eyes to the outcome and pray for His strength to come into our hearts and deliver us from our own will. Though we don’t like to admit that there are such times in our lives, all of us know that it can happen. So let’s make sure to stay on the straight and narrow path that leads to life.
Blessings and Shalom,