When the people of Israel camped outside Moab, the local leader became alarmed. Balak, the King of Moab didn’t welcome the Israelites, or even bother to go out and say, “Hi, so, ya, uh, where did you come from and what are you all up to?”
Instead, King Balak has a knee jerk reaction. Suspicion and fear create a disturbing reality in Balak’s imagination and he sends his messengers to another nearby leader, Balaam. The message decodes into, “Balaam, dude, you have to help me. There are a zillion Israelites camping outside out town. They are a terrible influence and need to be cursed.”
Balaam looks past the knee jerk reaction and tries to take in a bigger picture. He may even have learned in his life that cursing others doesn’t ever reap the kind of rewards that make life worthwhile. Balaam, looking past the human reaction to something higher, he explains to the messengers that he needs to talk to God.
Sure enough, Balaam’s intuition about the cursing tactic comes through as a voice and he feels God is telling him to go ahead and return with the messengers to Balak. But, God reminds him to pay attention because God will be giving minute by minute directions.
The next morning, Balaam gets on his donkey and they all head to Moab. The angel of God comes before Balaam to tell him what to do next but Balaam is not paying attention.
The donkey is attentive though.
The donkey tries three times to get Balaam to wake up and pay attention to the angel. The donkey walks off the road, then walks close to a wall so Balaam’s leg gets squished, then the donkey just sits down. Balaam meanwhile is getting pissed. Balaam starts yelling at the donkey, who finally just talks to Balaam, saying, “Wake up you numbskull. The angel is speaking and you don’t even see the angel.”
Groggy Balaam had to shake himself awake. First he realized he not only was ignoring the angel but he didn’t even trust his donkey, the donkey that had proven a lifetime of devotion to him.
Balaam was probably ashamed, but he straightened out and went to Balak to tell him blessings are in order, not cursing. Numbers 22 tells the whole story. Listening to God is great, but spiritual instructions don’t come in a one-time-shot. Spiritual guidance is continual.