28And YHWH opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you that you have struck me these three times?” 29And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have played a dirty trick on me! I wish I had a sword in my hand. I’d kill you with it right now!” 30But the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life? Have I ever been in the habit of doing such a thing to you?” And Balaam said, “No.”
31And YHWH opened Balaam’s eyes and he saw YHWH’s angel standing in the way with his sword drawn in his hand. He bowed and worshiped on his face. — Numbers 22:28-31
I have a weakness. Well, actually, I have a number of weakness, but only one I’m going to talk about today! I can get focused on accomplishing one thing to the exclusion of everything else. I will ignore everyone and everything. If someone tries to distract me, it makes me very angry. I want to stomp on all the distractions and get on with the obviously brilliant thing I’m working on.
Now it’s always fun to find Bible characters who share your weaknesses. It’s nice to know that some hero of the faith like David, Jeremiah, or Peter share it, and thus you can say, â€œI’m not so bad. ____ did that in the Bible and he’s a great hero. In this case, however, the character who shares my weakness is Balaam. He didn’t get very far on what he wanted to do, and he ended up dying in a war (Numbers 31:8). He’s not remembered as one of the good guys!
Now I’m not saying that focus is a great sin, and those who commit it will end up like Balaam. Focus can also be a strength. The problem is that we need to be able to change course as necessary. Have you ever started driving somewhere that was different than usual, but let’s say you drive past your work place, or some friend’s home that you visit regularly, and by habit you drive to the place you normally go? Then you have to turn around and continue to the right place.
Sometimes when we’re on the wrong track God has to work very hard to get our attention. Consider Balaam. His donkey, apparently well behavedâ€”or at least that’s what Balaam saysâ€”takes him off the road three times in various ways. Finally, God lets the donkey talk. Balaam, however, is so focused on where he is going and what he wants to do that he even starts arguing with the donkey without thinking about it. Finally, God opens his eyes and he sees an angel standing there with drawn sword. Oops! Have we got a problem here!
You see sometimes we go forward into hardship and we assume the devil is doing it to us and that we must plow through. No matter what happens, we go ahead planning to do the same thing. We think it’s that annoying donkey when it’s really the angel of the Lord.
At the same time the Holy Spirit can lead us into something that is very difficult and challenging. We can’t be certain that just because there are difficulties, God is not leading. Jesus followed God’s lead all the way to the cross!
What’s the answer? Seeing things. Balaam sees when God opens his eyes. He doesn’t ask God to open his eyes, however, until he’s arguing with the donkey. He could have asked God to open his eyes the first time the donkey took him off the path, but he didn’t.
When distractions and hardships come, don’t let them stop you. But do slow down long enough to ask God to open your eyes and let you know what he’s trying to accomplish through that particular event. The devil may be after you. On the other hand it may be God’s angel, directing you away from a dangerous path. Balaam insisted, and his path led to death in war with Israel.