Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went off with the noblemen from Moab. As he was going, though, God’s anger flared. The angel of God stood in the road to block his way. Balaam was riding his donkey, accompanied by his two servants. When the donkey saw the angel blocking the road and brandishing a sword, she veered off the road into the ditch. Balaam beat the donkey and got her back on the road.
(Numbers 22:21-23 MSG)
For a long time, the story of Balaam and the talking donkey was a bewildering one for me. I didn’t always understand why God would get angry at Balaam for going to see the king of Moab after telling him that it was okay to go in the first place. But as I read more about Balaam in the Bible, the more I began to understand his character and why God wasn’t pleased with his behaviour. A few chapters later, we find out that Balaam was responsible for Israel’s sin against God (Numbers 25), and in his letter, Jude compares ungodly people to Balaam who had “been sucked into [his] error by greed” (Jude 1:11). God knew of Balaam’s intentions all along and wasn’t going to let him loose. He used a donkey to speak common sense into the wicked prophet. Balaam was only going to speak what God wanted him to speak.
I’ve never heard of other talking-animal stories outside the Bible, but I’ve heard of God using bizarre experiences to get His people’s attention when they were so bound to their stubborn ways that they no longer recognized His leading in their lives. And some of those stories have been just as embarrassing and humiliating as Balaam’s. Out of His great love for His children, God often allows them to go through unpleasant situations to help them see the error of their ways and redirect them. And if it takes an awkward experience, so be it.
If you don’t want advice from a donkey, listen to God.