“Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and it said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?’”
I’m ashamed to admit it, but as a young pastor, fresh out of seminary, I’m certain I had an inflated view of my ability to speak for God, along with an unhealthy skepticism that God could use anyone without similar credentials to speak his word to me. It was in this state of arrogance that I first read the story of Balaam and his talking donkey. It’s possible I had heard the story before, but this time I finally started to pay attention.
Without going into too much detail, the donkey was attempting to protect Balaam from an angel that God had sent to prevent him from taking a certain journey. The donkey could see an angel, sword in hand, directly in front of them, while Balaam could not, so the donkey refused to move forward, in spite of Balaam beating him repeatedly. After hearing his donkey speak, Balaam’s eyes were opened, and he finally realized the danger he was in.
At the time, the story served as a humble reminder that God doesn’t need people with seminary degrees to get his point across. If he can use a donkey, he can use anyone. So we should never automatically assume who can and cannot speak for God, and we should be open to the myriad of possible ways he can speak to us. A short time after reading this story, I saw a man standing in a very busy intersection near Hanes Mall, shouting at the top of his lungs, “You must repent!”, and wearing a sandwich board that said something about the end being near. My immediate reaction was to dismiss him as a religious fanatic, but then I remembered Balaam’s donkey, and decided it very well could have been God who told him to do what he was doing.
Our church recently received an anonymous letter. Really, it wasn’t so much a letter as a copy of an article about another church, and how God spoke to them about making some pretty drastic changes to the way they operated. I can think of all kinds of reasons why we should dismiss the letter. The fact that it’s anonymous, that it’s about a church with which we probably have very little in common, that it was postmarked from somewhere in Missouri, or the fact that a lot of good things are happening in our church, are just a few of them. But it could also be God speaking to us. If it is, I pray that we listen.