"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
April 22, 2009
There are several stories in the Bible that if we read it anywhere else, we'd believe it to be made up or an exaggeration. Some of them seem so far fetched that it's hard for our small minds to comprehend them as truth. We know they're true, because they're written in the Bible, and we can be confident that every word that is written in God's Word is factual. But yet, if we heard any of those things happening today, we'd be skeptical and more than likely not believe them. Why did God want these things written down in His Word? I believe it is to show us that how He works is outside the boundaries of our human finite minds.
Often we limit what God can and cannot do in our lives or situations because we base it upon what we can imagine or believe can happen. We try to work out the details in our own limited thinking, and it's hard to believe that anything outside our comprehension and thinking can occur. For the next few weeks I will be focusing on some of these extraordinary events that are recorded in the Bible. Hopefully it will open our eyes to the truth that God is much bigger than us and often works in ways that are incomprehensible to us.
The need for thinking outside the box is something I've heard referred to over and over again. During the next few weeks, may we all begin to get a bigger picture of the power and majesty of God and see that He works outside the box. He can see the big picture and often answers prayers in ways that make no sense to us. And there are many things in life that we will not understand while upon this earth. But once we can grasp onto the truth that God knows best and is always working on our behalf, it will make it easier to trust Him during those times that just make no sense to us.
The first story that comes to mind is the one about Balaam and the talking donkey. Now we know that donkeys don't talk. They can make loud noise, they can be stubborn, and they can kick; but they don't talk. But God was needing to get Balaam's attention.
We first read about Balaam in Numbers chapter 22. Balaam was not an Israelite, but was a well-known priest-diviner. He may have at one time been a true follower of God, but later departed from the faith and became a sorcerer.
Moses was leading Israel at this time on their journey to the promised land. They had just fought and defeated the Amorites. They then traveled to Moab and camped along the Jordan river across from Jericho.
Balak was king of the Moabites at that time, and had seen what Israel had done to the Amorites. He was afraid of the Israelites because there were so many of them. So he sent messengers to go summon Balaam. His message was, "A people has come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me. Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the country. For I know that those you bless are blessed, and those you curse are cursed."
Apparently, Balaam had a reputation in the land as a top-notch sorcerer. Balak believed that if he came where the Israelites were, then he would be able to speak a curse over them and Moab would then be able to defeat them.
When Balaam received the message, he told the men to spend the night there, then he would give them the answer that the Lord gave him.
God came to Balaam and asked who the men were. When Balaam told him the purpose of their visit, God told him not to go with them; that he must not put a curse on the Israelites because they were blessed.
Needless to say, Balak didn't like Balaam's response. So he sent them back again to try and persuade Balaam to come. Balaam's response was, "Even if Balak gave me his palace filled with silver and gold, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God." He asked them to spend the night again, and he would find out what else the Lord would tell him.
Balaam's response here of "the Lord my God" may have indicated that his worship of many gods included the worship of the true God. In Bible times, as well as today, there were many who believed that there was a God, but they also believed that He was just one of many gods. They would offer sacrifices unto God and would worship Him, but they also would offer sacrifices to Baal and other gods. This was an attempt on their part to try and appease all gods and be protected and have all their needs met. They had a god for everything; war, fertility, crops, etc. They didn't want to do anything to offend any of these gods or God, so would sacrifice to each of them. Their lives were filled with constant fear and uncertainty.
God told Balaam to go with the messengers, but to do only what He told him to do.
Balaam got up early the next morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. But God was very angry because he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him.
It seems kind of contradictory that God would tell Balaam that he could go, then be angry at him. But as the story progresses you can see that He knew that Balaam was still considering Balak's offer. After God speaking directly to him and telling him not to put a curse on the Israelites, Balaam was still contemplating it in his heart.
God was determined to get Balaam's attention and sent an angel to get a message to him. Balaam was riding his donkey, and he had two servants with him. The angel of the Lord was revealed to the donkey before it was to Balaam.
When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, she turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat her to get her back on the road.
Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between two vineyards, with walls on both sides. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam's foot against it. So he beat his donkey again.
The third time the angel of the Lord moved and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn. This time when the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam, and he was angry, and beat her with his staff.
Then the Lord opened the donkey's mouth, and she said, "What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?"
I think it is very odd that Balaam answers the donkey back and doesn't seem to find it strange that she's talking to him. Perhaps he was so wrapped up in trying to get to Balak, and was thinking about his offer of cursing the Israelites, that he was angry that his donkey kept misbehaving and it didn't sink in right away that she was speaking to him.
Balaam answered the donkey, "You have mocked me! If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now."
The donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?" And he said, "No."
Then the Lord opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn; and he fell on his face.
The angel of the Lord asked him, "Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her."
Balaam said, "I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. If you are displease, I will go back."
He was told to continue on, but to only speak those things which God told him to say.
There are times when we will act in disobedience to God. He will put roadblocks in our path, trying to get our attention, but we become angry and more determined to continue in the direction we're headed. It's only when our eyes are opened and we see that it's God there trying to protect us, that we will admit to our sin. Many times we think it's people or situations trying to hinder our progress, but it's actually God trying to get our attention. He may be using individuals or circumstances, but it's Him trying to get us to turn away from our sin and get back on the right path.
In 2 Peter chapter two, Peter is warning against false prophets. In verses 15, 16 he compares them to Balaam. "Forsaking the right way (the straight road) they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, who loved the wages (reward) of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoings by a donkey -- a beast without speech -- who spoke with a man's voice and restrained the prophet's madness."
Balaam did obey God and only spoke those things which God gave him to say, upon his meeting with Balak. Needless to say, that didn't endear him to the king of Moab.
After Balaam's first discourse, Balak's response was, "What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but you have done nothing but bless them!" Balaam replied, "Must I not speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?"
Balak took him to another place to view the Israelites, hoping this would invoke a curse upon them.
Part of Balaam's message that time was, "God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill? I have received a command to bless; He has blessed, and I cannot change it."
Those are good words for us to remember and consider today. God is not a human like we are. He cannot lie and will not change His mind. He does not speak, then not act. What He promises, He will do. What God says is truth, and man cannot change it.
A third time, Balak took Balaam to a different location, hoping that he would change his mind and curse the Israelites. Apparently Balak didn't take God's words to heart and payed no heed to the message. Perhaps he was so set on defeating the Israelites that he wasn't willing to accept any other answer or option.
Again, God gave Balaam words of blessing to speak over Israel. Balak's anger burned against Balaam. He struck his hands together and said to him, "I summoned you to curse my enemies, but you have blessed them these three times. Now leave at once and go home! I said I would reward you handsomely, but the Lord has kept you from being rewarded."
Isn't that just like the mindset of the world? When God doesn't do things their way, they become angry. They blame the Christians for things not working out as they desired, and blame God for breaking promises that He never made. People want to listen to what God is saying, as long as it agrees with what they want to hear. But when God works in different ways than they want, they become angry and begin ignoring God and want nothing more to do with Him.
Balaam gave Balak a last word of warning, then left and went back to his home.
On Balaam's journey to see Balak, I wonder what the outcome would have been had the angel of the Lord not stood in the path of the donkey those three times? Would Balaam have disobeyed God and spoken a curse over Israel, in order to collect a reward from the king of Moab? Would he have obeyed and voiced only those things which God told him to speak? We'll never know. But this situation and the Israelite people were so important to God, that He was determined to get Balaam's attention.
God had promised protection and blessing to Israel, and He wasn't going to allow Balaam to interfere with His plan. So God used what He had available to get Balaam's attention. The donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road those three times and reacted in order to save Balaam's life. And the donkey's reward those three times was a beating. Finally God opened the mouth of the donkey and allowed her to speak to Balaam. When Balaam saw the angel of the Lord, he fell on his face and admitted his sin. He then spoke only those messages given to him by God to the king of Moab, even though they weren't popular or what the king wanted to hear.
When God tries to get our attention, may we listen to what He's saying and be responsive. God may not talk to us through a donkey, but He may use ways to get us to hear what He's saying that seem unconventional to us. May we always be open to whatever methods God uses to get our attention, and respond in obedience.
There is a popular song that says that we don't fall in a day. Balaam was probably the same. From the story, it seems that he was in God's favor for many years. Whatever Balaam blessed, God blessed also. Whatever he cursed, God cursed also. But maybe over a few years, or maybe a few decades, Balaam grew lukewarm toward God. He began to practice divination instead of simply trusting God. Even after God told him what to do, he was tempted in his heart to go against it.
It doesn't happen in a day. Usually, it starts subtly, with a lukewarm attitude and apathy.
Rotel Pork Chops
1 can Rotel
1 can whole kernel corn
Okra (cut into chunks) -- optional
Green peppers (sliced or chunked) - optional
Brown the pork chops in a skillet with a little oil. Put the pork chops in a baking dish. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chili powder. Cover with remaining ingredients. Cover and bake on 325 for 2 hours.
Our pastor shared a story a while back about something that occurred when he was about thirteen years old. I found it humorous because I could imagine one of my nephews doing something like this when they were that age.
Our pastor had been raised in a pentecostal church. One night he got to thinking that he bet the Baptist Church down the street had never had any "Holy Ghost dancing" done in it. So he snuck out of the house and climbed on top of the church and started dancing. Just to clarify, he was not mocking the Holy Spirit or claiming to be reacting to the moving of the Holy Spirit. He was just being an ornery thirteen year old kid who wanted the claim to fame of being the first person to dance on the local Baptist church rooftop. What he hadn't counted on was a police car to drive by after he got up there! The police officer took him in and called his parents. Needless to say, that put an end to his dancing career!
I may not be perfect, but Jesus thinks I'm to die for.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon