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 funny about a Biblical account that involves a talking donkey humiliating its angry, stick-swinging owner. Years later, I still maintain a bit of that sentiment, yet as an adult, I also realize there is great wisdom to be gained from the account of Balaam, Balak, and the Israelites (Numbers 22-24). In the passage above, Balaam’s journey is delayed due to what he perceives to be an insolent donkey. He was so angry that when God gives the animal the ability to speak, Balaam completely ignores that he is arguing with a donkey. Instead, he attempts to talk rationally with the animal, explaining why he has resorted to violence.
I’ll give you a moment to process that.
Now, let’s think about this together. You’re traveling 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 everything would stop if a donkey started speaking to me, including my power of speech. Further, I’m pretty confident that my anger would be quickly overcome by outright terror. While cute to watch on television, a talking animal in real life would conjure up quite a few scary scenarios. The scariest of which would be I was losing my mind. Full disclosure: I would have run from a talking rabbit.
I would have broken new records.
But, apparently, not Balaam.
Balaam was so consumed by anger he was unable to discern that something immediately ahead of him was very wrong and very dangerous. Further, he was angry at the wrong thing. He was angry at the thing God allowed to protect him.
I wonder how many talking donkeys we have tried to argue with.
Verse 29 of the same passage in the Message Version of the Bible 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? How often have we responded in anger because of a perception that someone has failed to treat, love, respect, or respond to us in the positive way that we feel we deserve?
I have had my Balaam moments.
Many years ago, before my husband’s and my separation, there was little denying the ease with which we would become angry with each other. We both felt disrespected, and in our pride, neither offered respect to the other. We were so focused on our hurt, we almost missed the danger signs ahead of us. Like Balaam, we had our eyes fixed on only one direction, forward. And when forward didn’t seem like it could be accomplished together, we silently determined to carry on apart. Our anger kept us from honestly evaluating our own feelings or acknowledging the feelings of those around us. We were furious with one another, and we became disgusted with our marriage. Like Balaam, we were ready to destroy that which God had given to bless us.
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. (James 1:19-20)
Anger prevents us from walking in discernment and love.
His way produces righteousness, and we should pursue righteousness in our homes, on our jobs and in our relationships. When we stop and listen, we give ourselves time to pray. In our silence, we should be praying for understanding, wisdom and the words to speak. It’s hard to be overcome with anger when we’re yielding ourselves and submitting our hearts to God. Pride brings about destruction, but a yielded heart, that seeks to abide in our Savior, produces fruit.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
The fruit of the Holy Spirit is transformative. He heals hearts, changes minds, delivers from strongholds and restores what was broken. It was through the fruit of the Holy Spirit that the Lord was able to mend and renew my broken marriage. Because of our pride, it was almost destroyed, but through our humility, God brought healing.
Join me today in praying that each of us would humbly choose to seek God for wisdom and discernment instead of submitting to anger, choices we may regret, or damaging conversation.
For more information on this topic, check out today’s Daily Hope & Prayer.