Sunday, March 13, 2016

When Plans are Frustrated

Do you ever feel like circumstances are conspiring against you?  You have a plan, you think God doesn’t object (He may even have given you an indication He’s for it), and you are trying to move forward.  Instead of smooth sailing you encounter one obstacle after another.  Well if any of this sounds familiar to you, stay tuned for our discussion tomorrow morning.  We’ll be turning way back in the Old Testament to Numbers 22:21-35 (click here, it is a link to the entire chapter for context) to catch up with Balaam and his donkey.  

As quick background, the time period is when Israel was wandering in the desert.  The King of the Moabites, Balak, saw the vast horde of the Israelites and was scared since he had heard how they defeated the Amorites, saw they were too many to win against, and feared they would overrun his kingdom.  He called for a “prophet” to curse the Israelites and the best known one was Balaam.  Balaam was not a man of God, rather he was a man of gods.  He would prognosticate in exchange for a fee.  Whichever god you wanted a word from, Balaam was your man. After some cajoling, Balaam agreed to meet with Balak.  

Balaam’s Donkey

21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. 22 But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road.
24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat the donkey again.
26 Then the angel of the Lord moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. 28 Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?
29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.
30 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?”
“No,” he said.
31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lordstanding in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.
32 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.[a] 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.”
34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.”
35 The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.

Things to think about:
  • Wow, where to start?!
  • Why was God displeased with Balaam?
  • Notice that the donkey tried to stop three times along the route.  Each time the way became narrower and more frustrating
    • When we are making an unwise choice, sometimes God gives us multiple chances to get back on the right road but each chance comes with a bit more pain associated with it.
    • have you ever had a time when the way had to get more difficult for the message to sink in?
  • rather than trying to see God in his difficulties, Balaam rages each time and beats his donkey
    • sometimes in our outbursts we feel like we are exerting power but in reality we are showing our weaknesses
    • this can be especially true with our wives and children
    • do you know anyone who is slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to get angry?  (That’s the opposite of James 1:19)
  • Interestingly, Balaam was a for-hire “Seer” but his dumb animal was the one who saw what was really going on.
    • 1Corinthians 1:27 - But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
  • How about when God gives voice to the donkey, rather than be amazed at the animal speaking, Balaam argues with it?!
    • he straight out missed a miracle in order to argue his case
  • The donkey says he has always been a good servant of Balaam and yet didn’t receive the benefit of the doubt
    • Why do we question God when we know beyond the show of a doubt that He has been, is now, and always will be faithful to our needs?
  • Then Balaam is humbled and humiliated when God opens his eyes to see the angel standing there, sword in hand
    • were it not for the inconveniences, frustrations, and delays, Balaam would have lost his life 
    • when have you had a experience when after all of the facts were presented you were in the wrong?  How did you respond?
    • are you going through something now where the path seems to be constantly thwarted?  Maybe your donkey has something to say???
  • To Balaam’s credit, he admitted his sin.  He even offered to go back and quit his journey to the king.
  • What is one application you can take from today’s study?

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