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“The One Who Should See and the One Who Shouldn’t Speak” (Numbers 22:21-35)

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

We’re continuing our series called “Weird Things from the Bible.” Last week we learned about Abraham and his wife/sister. This week, we’re learning about a famous weird story from the book of Numbers.

First, we need to know a bit about what is going on in the book of Numbers.

The book of Numbers picks up right after the Israelites were set free from Egyptian bondage, and they exited the land of Egypt and headed off for the promised land. That event is what we call “The Exodus.”

However, because the people sinned against God and didn’t trust God, they had to wander for forty years in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land. The book of Numbers describes a lot of that wandering.

Towards the end of the book, the people are getting closer to the Promised Land, and they begin to have battles with those who are living in or near the area that God is giving them.

So, let me show you on a map.

The yellow circle is where Israel crossed the Red Sea and came out of Egypt, the red circle is where God spoke to Moses on Mt. Sinai, the blue circle is where the Israelites settled for some time at Kadesh Barnea, and the purple circle is where we are in today’s passage. This purple circle is just east of modern-day Israel, near modern-day Jordan and Syria.

Some things happened just before the events that we’re studying today. As they near the Promised Land, the Israelites are going into battle, and they are winning the battles.

Just before chapter 22, they defeated the king of Arad, King Sihon of the Amorites, and King Og of Bashan.

Now, King Balak of Moab is concerned about the Israelites. He thinks that they may conquer him.

So Balak goes to a seer named Balaam (a seer is sort of like a prophet/magician mix).

Balak asks Balaam to curse the people of Israel so that Balak can defeat them. He actually asks him more than once to do this and offers him a lot of money to do so.

Balaam, even though he is not one of God’s people, knows enough to not do anything against the God of Israel, so he says that he can only do what God says to do.

Finally, the Lord tells Balaam that he can go with the men from Moab, but he must be careful to only do what God says.

So, Balaam saddles his donkey and goes with the men.

That brings us to today’s sermon, which is entitled “The One Who Should See and the One Who Shouldn’t Speak.”

Join me in prayer before we look at the passage, and let’s ask God to speak to us.


Ok, let’s look at the passage together. Join me in Numbers 22:21-35:

21 When he got up in the morning, Balaam saddled his donkey and went with the officials of Moab.

22 But God was incensed that Balaam was going, and the angel of the Lord took his stand on the path to oppose him. Balaam was riding his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing on the path with a drawn sword in his hand, she turned off the path and went into the field. So Balaam hit her to return her to the path. 24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow passage between the vineyards, with a stone wall on either side. 25 The donkey saw the angel of the Lord and pressed herself against the wall, squeezing Balaam’s foot against it. So he hit her once again. 26 The angel of the Lord went ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn to the right or the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she crouched down under Balaam. So he became furious and beat the donkey with his stick.

28 Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and she asked Balaam, “What have I done to you that you have beaten me these three times?”

29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You made me look like a fool. If I had a sword in my hand, I’d kill you now!”

30 But the donkey said, “Am I not the donkey you’ve ridden all your life until today? Have I ever treated you this way before?”

“No,” he replied.

31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the path with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam knelt low and bowed in worship on his face. 32 The angel of the Lord asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? Look, I came out to oppose you, because I consider what you are doing to be evil. 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away from me, I would have killed you by now and let her live.”

34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the path to confront me. And now, if it is evil in your sight, I will go back.”

35 Then the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but you are to say only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.

Ok, we’ve got some weird stuff going on in this passage. So, let’s dive into it.

First, . . .

‌I. It was weird that Balaam didn’t see.

Think about for a moment if you can remember what Balaam’s job was. Balaam was a SEER!

Balaam was supposed to be able to sense spiritual realities that normal people couldn’t. He was supposed to be able to see the connection between the physical world and the spiritual world, then communicate between the two.

Balaam was the one who should see. However, Balaam couldn’t even sense that the angel of the Lord was about to kill him.

Balaam not seeing is like a singer who can’t sing, a teacher who can’t teach, an author who can’t write, a chef who can’t cook, or a mechanic who can’t fix a car. They’re not much help if they can’t do what they’re supposed to do.

So, we see in verses 23, 25, and 27 who saw the angel of the Lord. It was not Balaam; it was the donkey. Balaam was supposed to see, but it was the donkey who saw.

It wasn’t until the Lord graciously intervened in verse 31 that Balaam was finally able to see.

Verse 31 says, “Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the path with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam knelt low and bowed in worship on his face.”

Once Balaam was finally able to see, he was wise enough to respond in worship on his face. He knew that he needed to get his act together at this point.

Church, sometimes we’re having the problems that we’re having because we can’t see what God is doing. Sometimes our spiritual eyes are so blind that a donkey is more likely than us to see what God is doing.

Balaam couldn’t see because he wasn’t in tune with what God was doing.

In fact, if you go back to verse 22, you can see that it says God was incensed with Balaam. That means God was very angry with Balaam.

Many have tried to theorize why God was angry with Balaam because it appeared that Balaam was only doing what God told him to do.

My sense is that perhaps Balaam was rushing what God wanted to do, rather than waiting to fully hear from God. Others have said that perhaps Balaam was doing what he was doing with the wrong attitude or for his own selfish gain.

In any case, it’s clear that Balaam is not tuned in to what God is doing, so much so that he almost had his head cut off by the angel of the Lord.

It’s weird that Balaam, a seer, didn’t see what God was doing.

Second, . . .

‌II. It was weird that the donkey spoke.

Now, some of us know something about talking animals.

Many of you are familiar with Mister Ed. Mister Ed was a talking horse who had a television show in the 1960s.

Others of you are familiar with a talking donkey who goes by the name “Donkey” from the Shrek movies.

By the way, neither Mister Ed nor Donkey is really a talking animal (sorry to burst your bubble).

However, Balaam’s donkey was a real animal, and I believe with all my heart that he really spoke.

Listen to what verse 28 says,

Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and she asked Balaam, “What have I done to you that you have beaten me these three times?”

Folks, this is weird. Animals are not supposed to talk. However, this is an absolute miracle of God.

If God can create the entire world out of nothing, if He can create woman from man, if He can part the Red Sea to lead the Israelites across, if He can rain down fire on Mt. Carmel with the prophet Elijah, if He can cause a great fish to swallow a man and then vomit him up later, if He can raise Lazarus from the dead, if He can cause the deaf to hear and the blind to see, if He can speak with tongues of fire on the of Pentecost and see thousands come to salvation, if He can save wretched sinners like you and me, you better believe that He can make a donkey speak.

Nothing is impossible with God!

This is weird, but it is miraculous, and God is working through this donkey.

However, perhaps weirder than the donkey speaking are these words from verse 29: “Balaam answered the donkey.”

I mean, what is going on here? Can you imagine an animal speaking to you and then just casually answering the animal? This is crazy!

If an animal spoke to me, I would freak out!

We don’t have any animals at my house because three kids are wild enough, but we do have a church cat here. We don’t own him, but we can’t get him to leave. So, he’s been here for a while. Let me tell you, a lot of people speak to our church cat. However, I’ve never seen the cat speak back to anyone. The cat’s name is Boots. Let me just tell you, if Boots spoke to me, we’d have a problem. If he said to me, “Pastor Matt, I’ve been meaning to talk to you for a while. This sidewalk where I sleep is not cutting it. I’d like to have a soft bed, perhaps a space heater in the winter . . . we’ve really got to improve things around here.” If Boots said that, I would freak out! I’d probably kick him across the sidewalk and start trying to pray demons out of him. Why? Because it’s weird for an animal to speak to a human.

It’s weird that the donkey spoke to Balaam. However, even though this was weird, God was doing something.

That takes us to our third point:

‌III. It was weird that God used this situation.

Think about this for a second . . . a Moabite king wanted to hire a seer named Balaam to curse God’s people so that they might be vulnerable to defeat. However, instead, God used a donkey to reveal to the non-Israelite seer that He (God) was about to have him killed because he wasn’t in tune with how God wanted to use him to bless the people of Israel, rather than curse them.

I mean, this is just a crazy story. Seers who can’t see, donkeys who shouldn’t talk, and God blesses Israel instead of cursing them as Balak wanted Balaam to do.

God had something in mind all along, and He was working out His will.

That takes us to our bottom line:

‌Bottom Line: God can use the weird to accomplish His will.

God is going to work out His plan one way or another. He knows the end from the beginning, and nothing can stop His plan.

God says in Isaiah 46:9-10, “Remember what happened long ago, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and no one is like me. I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: my plan will take place, and I will do all my will.”

Also, you may remember Job, a man who learned firsthand of the wonders of God. Job said in Job 42:2, “I know that you can do anything and no plan of yours can be thwarted.”

God can do anything that He wants to do, and He can do it any way that He wants to do it. He can accomplish His will with a pagan seer and a donkey, He can accomplish His will with a man married to his sister (that’s from last week), or another way that He desires.

Trust that God can accomplish His will, even by using the weird at times. Challenge yourself this week in the following ways:

‌Weekly Challenge #1 – Ask yourself if you can see the Lord at work.

Balaam didn’t see what the Lord was doing. He nearly killed his faithful donkey and lost his own life because of his spiritual blindness.

What about you? Can you see the Lord at work? Can you see how He is working in your life, in our church, in our world?

The truth is, He is working! Can you see it?

If not, spend some time in prayer, read the Bible, seek wisdom from Christians whom you trust.

Can you see God working? Challenge yourself to answer that question this week.

‌Weekly Challenge #2 – Consider what God might be using to get you back on track.

God used that donkey to save Balaam’s life.

Pay attention to this: that donkey caused Balaam some pain and some embarrassment. However, God used it for Balaam’s good AND to accomplish His will.

What might God be doing in your life that might be hard, painful, or embarrassing, but it is for God’s will and for your good?

Take some time and think through that this week.

Weird things happen, but God can use them to do His will in your life and in the world.

(Gospel presentation)

(closing prayer)

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