- Numbers 22: 31-33 (NLT)
Last week I wrote a memorial for a wonderful horse that we lost after twenty-four years of loyal service to my wife. He was truly a member of the family and it was a bittersweet event, for though we hated to see Gabriel go, he was increasingly in pain and suffering and we could no longer bear watching that. But as I pondered his long life, I thought of the story of Balaam, a man who was summoned by the Moabites to help them stop the advance of the Israelites to the Promised Land after gaining their release from bondage by the Pharaoh of Egypt. All the wise Balaam had to do to earn a handsome reward was to curse the Israelites.
The King sent a distinguished group of representatives to see Balaam and offer him a large sum of money, but he turned it down after being directed to do so by God, and he sent them on their way home. But they returned later, and again Balaam went to the Lord with their request. God told him that he could go with them, but he must do absolutely nothing not specifically authorized by God Himself. The next morning he made ready and went to the Moabite officials who were preparing for their long journey home, telling them he would accompany them.
In his travel, an angel of the Lord appeared on the road facing him with a sword, unseen by Balaam but seen by his donkey. The frightened donkey ran away into a nearby field but was beaten by Balaam and their journey continued.
Farther down the road on a narrower part, with walls of stone on both sides, the angel again appeared and this time the frightened donkey tried to slip past the angel, stepping on Balaam's foot in the process and pushing him hard into the rock wall. Balaam again beat the donkey with his staff, then recovered his composure and continued on.
Finally, the angel appeared with a sword again in a portion of the road where there no was room on either side. The frightened donkey then just lay down at Balaam's feet looking up at him. Balaam beat him for the third time and the angel of the Lord gave the donkey voice to speak. The poor animal asked Balaam why he was beating him and, when Balaam replied because he made him look like a fool, the donkey responded by reminding Balaam that he had never acted in such a way before and had loyally carried him for many years.
At that moment, Balaam could see the angel and immediately went to his knees appealing for mercy. The angel told him if the donkey had gotten away he would likely have killed Balaam and then given the donkey freedom. The angel of God was angry because Balaam had seemed anxious to be on his way to Moab since instead of waiting for the emissaries to come to him he went to them. It made his actions look as if he was initiating them and that would likely be because of the money he would receive if he carried out their wishes. While God trusted Balaam to stick to his word, sometimes the actions shown even then are a telltale sign of what is in the heart.
And that brings us back to the the title of today's message: Sometimes God Speaks Through Animals and, like Balaam, I can offer witness to that. You see, over the years, Old Gabe, our now departed horse, and I had quite the personal relationship. Maybe it was because we were the two older males on the farm and we understood one another. But I would use him sometimes as a sounding board and sometimes he would just give me a certain type of look, a nod of the head, or even a sigh, but it was if he understood what he was saying. And I could tell his feelings and emotions very clearly by the look he gave. Just like I knew in my heart that he was telling me with the look in his eyes that it was time to go.
Now I'm not telling you I can talk with the animals like Wilbur, the owner of Mr. Ed did on TV long ago, nor am I saying that Gabe could speak to me by voice, but sometimes in his presence I was given guidance from above on what I should do about a pressing issue or problem. And I think it's because he softened me and opened my heart and it's at times like those when all of us are most receptive to His words.
I've had my morning prayer on many a morning in the barn while waiting for Gabe to finish eating and while in that quiet mode I've received many answers to them. They certainly weren't always I wanted to hear at the time, but they were good answers, the right answers, and they helped me deal with whatever was being face. If we just listen to the answers from God, they are always the right answers, however they reach us. Balaam was ultimately spared by the angel with a lot of help from that donkey; from my own experience with horses, it was a logical action.
Dear Lord, Thank you for the wonderful animals that you've brought to us and for all the things that they have done to open our hearts to you and your message. Nature offers some of the best evidence of what you desire of us if only we'll open our eyes to see, our ears to listen, and our hearts to accept. We ask in Jesus' name, Amen.
Have a blessed Lord's Day.