Blessings, Curses, and a Bold Donkey

This week’s parsha is Balak and it comes from Numbers 22:8-25:9 and Micah 5:6-6:8. It has been three parshot since the spies went into the land and brought back a majority bad report, but from this parsha we see that others are aware of the power of God. Balak is the King of Moab and he has heard of how God blessed the Israelites in number even in Egypt, how he miraculously brought them out, and gave them victory over the Amorites–and he is afraid. He sends a prophet named Balaam to curse Israel so that they will not be a threat to Moab and the King of Moab’s power. In 22:6 Balak says to Balaam, “For I know that whomever you bless is blessed and whomever you curse is accursed.” Balak has heard of the power of God, but believes that Balaam’s powers of blessings and cursings are able to trump the will of God.

Verses 8-20 are pretty interesting as we see Balaam arguing with God. God tells Balaam not to go with men from Balak to curse Israel because he has blessed them. Balak is insistent that Balaam go and curse Israel, Balaam consents to go–but it’s not a good thing. As he sets off the Angel of the Lord is in the road to block his path. Balaam, a prophet who has been hearing from God…if not always listening to him, does not see the Angel blocking the way with sword drawn. But someone does: Balaam’s trusty female donkey. She does everything she can to turn Balaam away from his intended mission and Balaam beats her. Finally, she’s has enough and the Lord opens her mouth. That’s right, a talking donkey! She says, “what have I ever done to you!” She’s trying to save his life (and her own) and he’s beating her. They have an argument and then the Lord opens Balaam’s eyes and he sees the danger his donkey has protected him from. He repents and sets off back in the direction of Balak having promised the Lord only to speak the words God gives him. Isn’t it amazing the lengths that God will go to teach us to obey him!

There is a scene with Balak where Balaam prophesies about Israel and her future. He prophesies about the coming of the Messiah and the flourishing of Israel. The prophecy is repeated in Micah. The promise of such a redeemer in Numbers 24:17 is also the promise that Moab will be defeated. This is not what Balak was looking for! Balaam reminds Balak that he cannot curse those whom God has blessed or bless those whom God has cursed.

But this parsha tells us that Moab is successful in being a burden and even in ways a curse upon Israel at this time. As Israel settles closer to Moab, many find the detestable practices of Moab appealing and begin to worship false gods. Balaam’s words from God let us know that this state will not last forever, that Moab will be defeated. But for us, let us look to go where God is going and bless those God blesses. Even more, let us look to the day when Y’shua our Messiah will return and take away the things that distract us from following him.

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