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March 28, Day #88 – His Place of Safety

Today in our readings we come to Numbers 22:21-23:26. In this chapter, we are introduced to Balak, the king of Moab, and to Balaam, a pagan prophet. Balak and his subjects, the Moabites, are “filled with dread because of the Israelites” (verse 3), so Balak summons Balaam to “put a curse” on the Israelites (verse 6). Balaam is an example of a false prophet who engages in divination, witchcraft, and occultic practices. He knows something about the will of God, but he refuses to follow God or worship Him. This is clear from the recorded dialogue between God and Balaam (verses 9-20, ff.). Balaam chose to disobey God’s first command not to go with the princes of Moab, but later, God permits him to go and only “do what I tell you” (verse 20). What follows is the familiar account of Balaam and his donkey. To his own foolishness, Balaam could not see what his donkey could see – the Angel of the LORD (cf., March 11, Day #71 - Can't See ... or Won't See?). People often speak to their animals, but almost never does an animal respond with human speech, although in this case, Balaam’s donkey did. Ironically, Balaam acts unsurprised – almost like his donkey talks to him all the time! The Angel of the LORD validates the donkey by repeating and emphasizing her questions to Balaam. Again, God restricts the prophet to “speak only what I tell you” (verse 35). Balaam presents four oracles – two in our readings for today – and two in tomorrow’s readings. Both times, Balak is furious with Balaam because Balaam cannot curse what God has blessed. This passage reveals the truth of Psalm 37:32-40 – that God protects the righteous from the destructive intents of the wicked.

In Psalm 37:32-40 we are reminded that our salvation “comes from the LORD” Who “helps, delivers, and saves us” because we “take refuge in Him” (verses 39-40). Our salvation is the product of God’s faithful love, mercy, and grace toward us, but taking “refuge in Him” is also His work - we have little to do with it other than to seek it actively. In verse 33, David says “the LORD will not leave” us “in the power of the wicked,” indicating that He brings us to the place of refuge. We are powerless on our own to enter that refuge without His “help,” but our part in the transaction is not passive; we must exercise our wills by seeking to be protected.

We also see this same principle in Luke 6:37-7:10. It is not possible for the blind to “lead the blind” (6:39). In these verses, Jesus teaches practical biblical principles that we should follow. If we judge others, we will be judged by the standards we use to judge them. Unless we remove the plank from our own eye, we cannot help a brother remove the speck from his eye. In the same way that good fruit does not come from bad trees, we must be careful to be righteous and consistent in our hearts to store up and produce good things that proceed from there. This all begins with building on the right foundation – the Rock that is Jesus Christ. Otherwise, when the “torrents strike,” our house will collapse and complete will be its destruction” (verse 49). In Luke 7:1-10, we see the faith of a Roman centurion – a Gentile and “a man under authority” (verse 8). “Hearing this [i.e., the man’s testimony], Jesus was amazed” and healed his servant from a distance (verse 10). In all of our readings today, we see how much people need the loving guidance and the assistance of the One Who not only sees but also knows and is qualified and capable to remove us from our place of danger or dilemma to His place of safety.

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Thank you, Nathan, for your comment & your call yesterday - so good to talk with you! Donkeys are a lot like people - though often quite stubborn - they’ve smart & protective, & of course, these are usually good characteristics that we commend in donkeys. The bigger problem is when people act like donkeys.


I understand the frustration of dealing with a donkey that won’t do what you want better now than when, as a child, I read this passage about Balaam and his donkey. I remember thinking it was funny that the donkey spoke to him, but having since then had a donkey that was very strong willed break out of a pasture and fight to “protect” a newborn calf (from its own mother, who was desperately trying to feed and nurture it), I appreciate how stubborn and strong a donkey can be. I, too, wonder at Balaam’s (lack of) response to his donkey talking to him, but given the overall circumstances I suppose that Balaam’s practices maybe made him a little strange…

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