I love the story of Balaam’s donkey, from Numbers chapter 22. Of course, it’s one of those Bible stories that sticks in our memories from Sunday school on — it’s such a colorful account, with God’s giving the donkey the ability to speak. I’m sure as a boy I laughed at the irony: the donkey (of all animals!) seems wiser than the supposedly wise and powerful prophet! At this point in my life, though, I love the story for different reasons. I love it because it teaches me three things that I often need to remember.
First, the talking donkey tells me that God knows how to be heard. I think it’s pretty normal for us humans to wonder if we will miss God’s voice. “How will I know if it’s God? What if I don’t hear Him?!? What if I miss what He’s saying?” But think about a God who is willing to give a donkey power to speak in order to get His point across — a God like that knows how to make Himself heard! God made our ears, our brains, our spirits — no one knows better than He does how they work. That God surely must know how to speak into our world in a way we can hear!
Balaam’s donkey also encourages me in another way. I figure if God can use a donkey, then He can probably use me, too! Sometimes we think about what we don’t have — we see others with specific gifts and we think, “Man, I can’t do that! I don’t have that ability!” It’s easy to focus on what we lack. But then there’s Balaam’s braying old donkey. God used that donkey as a spokesperson. The man who was supposed to be in touch with God wasn’t really listening, wasn’t obeying — and God saw a use for the donkey. If God can use Balaam’s donkey, then He can use me.
If God can use a donkey, then He can probably use me, too!
Finally, Balaam’s donkey helps me keep things in perspective. When God uses us, we feel really good — it’s wonderful to know that God worked in us or through us! At those times, we might be tempted to spiritual pride — tempted to think to ourselves, “Look how valuable I am to God! Look what God did through me!” In those times, I like to remember Balaam’s donkey. Yes, if God can use a donkey, then He can use me. But also, when God does use me, that means I’ve achieved donkey status. It doesn’t mean I’m God’s gift to the world or the church or anything, really. It means I’m just as good as a donkey.
Of course, as we are of more value than sparrows, so we are of more value than donkeys. But not because God is helpless without us! He wants to use you, and He wants to use me — we just need to be willing like the donkey, not resistant like Balaam.
Originally published in God’s Revivalist. Used by permission.