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The Red Light Donkey

Good morning. I have not talked with you since last month! Welcome to March 2022 😊 Jeanette Stark here.

When you were a child did you ever play the game “Red Light, Green Light”?

It was a fun game. As children we would stand against the gym wall, or perhaps outside, the teacher or other adult would stand opposite us, at the finish line. When they would shout “green light”, we would run as fast as we could toward the finish line. When they shouted “red light”, we had to stop and stand perfectly still. If someone moved, they were sent back to start and had to begin again. Of course, the goal was to cross the finish line first.

There are variations. You can make the kids walk instead of run. Have them skip or crawl or here is a fun one, walk backwards. And if the adults are feeling very daring, they can mix it up a bit by making red light mean go and green light mean stop. Make it very confusing for the children 😊

Red lights cause us to stop or, should cause us to stop. When I think of stories from the Bible on stopping, I cannot help but think of a certain donkey; Balaam’s donkey; a talking donkey.

The Israelites had to pass through, or very near, Moabite territory on their way to the Promised Land. They needed permission to pass through this area safely and to enter Canaan. The king however refused to their request. Instead, he called on Balaam, to put a curse on them. Apparently, Balaam's reputation would cause a king to consider paying him a large amount of money for his services.

You can read the story of Balaam in Numbers chapter 22, 23 and 24. I would encourage you to read it. In summary, the story goes like this:

The Israelites were camping along the Jordan across from Jericho. This was in the plains of Moab and the people there were terrified because there were so many Israelites. The Bible says Moab was “filled with dread because of the Israelites.”

The king of Moab sent messengers to summon Balaam, asking Balaam to come and put a curse on the Israelites because they were too powerful.

Balaam invites the men to stay the night and told them he would seek God’s advice. Well, God tells Balaam not to go with them. Verse 12: “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.”

The next morning Balaam tells the king’s officials, the Lord told me not to go.

The officials return and tell the king of Moab that Balaam has refused to come. The king does not take ‘no’ for an answer and sends back a bigger, more distinguished group of officials and they tell Balaam, the king has said do not let anything keep you from coming. He will reward you big-time and he will do whatever you say. Just come and put a curse on these people.

Verse 18 “But Balaam answered them, “Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God. Now spend the night here so that I can find out what else the Lord will tell me.”

That night God came to Balaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”

Now here is where it gets confusing for me, and I welcome any insight you may have on this…in verse 20 God tells him to go, in verse 22 Got gets angry that he went. At any rate, here is where it gets good.

“Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went off with the noblemen from Moab. As he was going, though, God’s anger flared. The angel of God stood in the road to block his way. Balaam was riding his donkey, accompanied by his two servants. When the donkey saw the angel blocking the road and brandishing a sword, she veered off the road into the ditch. Balaam beat the donkey and got her back on the road.

But as they were going through a vineyard, with a fence on either side, the donkey again saw God’s angel blocking the way and veered into the fence, crushing Balaam’s foot against the fence. Balaam hit her again.

God’s angel blocked the way yet again—a very narrow passage this time; there was no getting through on the right or left. Seeing the angel, Balaam’s donkey sat down under him. Balaam lost his temper; he beat the donkey with his stick.

Then God gave speech to the donkey. She said to Balaam: “What have I ever done to you that you have beat me these three times?”

Balaam said, “Because you’ve been playing games with me! If I had a sword I would have killed you by now.”

The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your trusty donkey on whom you’ve ridden for years right up until now? Have I ever done anything like this to you before? Have I?”

He said, “No.”

Then God helped Balaam see what was going on: He saw God’s angel blocking the way, brandishing a sword. Balaam fell to the ground, his face in the dirt.

God’s angel said to him: “Why have you beaten your poor donkey these three times? I have come here to block your way because you’re getting way ahead of yourself. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she hadn’t, I would have killed you by this time, but not the donkey. I would have let her off.”

Balaam said to God’s angel, “I have sinned. I had no idea you were standing in the road blocking my way. If you don’t like what I’m doing, I’ll head back.”

But God’s angel said to Balaam, “Go ahead and go with them. But only say what I tell you to say—absolutely no other word.”

And so Balaam continued to go with Balak’s nobles.

When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him in the Moabite town that was on the banks of the Arnon, right on the boundary of his land.

Balak said to Balaam, “Didn’t I send an urgent message for help? Why didn’t you come when I called? Do you think I can’t pay you enough?”

Balaam said to Balak, “Well, I’m here now. But I can’t tell you just anything. I can speak only words that God gives me—no others.” The Message Bible Numbers 22:21-38

Again, I would encourage you to read the whole story in Numbers chapter 22 through chapter 24. Not only does Balaam NOT curse the Israelites, he ends up giving them a blessing, three times!

There are many people who say you cannot believe the Bible; it is just a story book, nothing in it is true. However, more and more things are being found that support the Biblical writings, including the following.

“In 1967 archaeologists digging up the remains of Deir Alla, an ancient Ammonite city on the east bank of the Jordan, found an inscription that mentioned Balaam, the son of Beor. The 16 lines of an incomplete inscription on a wall turned out to be part of one of Balaam's prophecies, in language similar to what is recorded in Numbers…The restored text discovered in Deir Alla reads: "Inscription of Balaam, son of Beor, the man who was a seer of the gods. Lo, the gods came to him at night and spoke to him. According to these words, and they said to Balaam, son of Beor thus: 'There has appeared the last flame, a fire of chastisement has appeared!' And Balaam arose the next day and he could not eat and he wept intensely. And his people came to him and said to Balaam, son of Beor: 'Why do you fast and why do you weep?' And he said to them: 'Sit down! I shall show you how great is the calamity! And come, see the deeds of the gods! . . .' " These words are strikingly similar in detail to the biblical account. Apparently the memory of what happened to this seer remained in the memory of the Ammonites and was recorded in their version.”

“Archaeologist Andre Lemaire, who pieced together the incomplete script, wrote: ". . . The inscription from Deir Alla, dated to about the middle of the eighth century B.C. and written on the wall of what may have been some kind of religious teaching center, is very likely the earliest extant example of a prophetic text. The principal personage in the Deir Alla text is the seer Balaam, son of Beor, well known to us from the stories in Numbers" (Biblical Archaeology Review, September-October 1985, p. 39). (Source:

Sometimes, just like Balaam, we do not see the angel in the road preventing us from moving forward. Sometimes, just like Balaam we lash out with anger that things are not going our way or moving as fast as we think they should. Let’s take a page from history and know that we do not always see what is best for us, but we should always take it to God in prayer.

Perhaps you are in the valley of decision right now. Pray that God will keep closed those doors He does not want you to walk through: Red Light. Ask Him to open wide those doors He wants you to walk through: Green Light. Ask God to make it clear. And then wait for His answer. It will always be the best answer for you.

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