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Protected From Ourselves

Sunday Morning  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  45:27
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R. Kent Hughes, in his book Liberating Ministry From The Success Syndrome tells a story of a gospel singer and songwriter who was associated with Dwight L. Moody. The story goes “It was Christmas Eve 1875 and Ira Sankey was traveling on a Delaware River steamboat when he was recognized by some of the passengers. His picture had been in the newspaper because he was the song leader for the famous evangelist D.L. Moody. They asked him to sing one of his own hymns, but Sankey demurred, saying that he preferred to sing William B. Bradbury's hymn, "Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us." As he sang, one of the stanzas began, "We are Thine; do Thou befriend us. Be the Guardian of our way."
When he finished, a man stepped from the shadows and asked, "Did you ever serve in the Union Army?"
"Yes," Mr. Sankey answered, "in the spring of 1860."
"Can you remember if you were doing picket duty on a bright, moonlit night in 1862?"
"Yes," Mr. Sankey answered, very much surprised.
"So did I, but I was serving in the Confederate army. When I saw you standing at your post, I thought to myself, 'That fellow will never get away alive.' I raised my musket and took aim. I was standing in the shadow, completely concealed, while the full light of the moon was falling upon you. At that instant, just as a moment ago, you raised your eyes to heaven and began to sing...'Let him sing his song to the end,' I said to myself, 'I can shot him afterwards. He's my victim at all events, and my bullet cannot miss him.' But the song you sang then was the song you sang just now. I heard the words perfectly: 'We are Thine; do Thou befriend us. Be the Guardian of our way.' Those words stirred up many memories. I began to think of my childhood and my God-fearing mother. She had many times sung that song to me. When you had finished your song, it was impossible for me to take aim again. I thought, 'The Lord who is able to save that man from certain death must surely be great and mighty.' And my arm of its own accord dropped limp at my side."
Have you ever been protected from something that you were unaware of? We can go down the list from running late, to having to miss events, being looked over for a promotion, the list could go on and on and on…only to find out that each of those circumstances were to our benefit. Here in Numbers, we find Balaam in a situation where he was being protected, by a donkey none the less, without knowing the seriousness that faced him. You see, He had been approached by a group sent by the king’s son to curse the Israelites. Now, this wasn’t just a request, but a bribe was involved. God told Balaam to not go with these men, nor to curse the people. When that didn’t work, they sent more money, a bigger bribe.
Balaam again consulted with God who told him "If the men have come to call you, rise, go with them; but ONLY do what I tell you. So, Balaam rose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab.” And we pick up with verse 22.

First Attempt

Numbers 22:22–23 ESV
22 But God’s anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 And the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand. And the donkey turned aside out of the road and went into the field. And Balaam struck the donkey, to turn her into the road.
A twist in the plot takes place. God does not approve of Balaam going with these men to Moab, and grows angry. We don’t really understand why God’s demeanor changes until 2 Peter 2:15
2 Peter 2:15 ESV
15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing,
God knew Balaam would choose greed over God’s will. God knew he could not turn away from money and fame. God knew he was a false prophet, who consulted with God but apparently was not faithful to follow Him.
The angel of the Lord was sent to execute judgment on Balaam. For whatever reason, he was unable to see the angel - but the donkey on which he was riding saw the angel of the Lord, in the middle of the road, ready to take out Balaam, sword in hand.
Knowing something wasn’t right, the donkey ran out of the road and went into a field - getting away from the angel and protecting its master. How was the donkey rewarded? Balaam struck the donkey and made her get back on the road.

Second Attempt

Numbers 22:24–25 ESV
24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. 25 And when the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she pushed against the wall and pressed Balaam’s foot against the wall. So he struck her again.
Since the first attempt to kill Balaam didn’t work, the angel of the Lord again places Himself in front of Balaam and the donkey. This time he positioned himself in a narrow path with walls on both sides of the path. Again, the donkey saw the angel with his sword drawn. Again, the donkey tried to avoid his master’s demise, pressing as tight to the wall as possible, crushing Balaam’s foot. How was the donkey rewarded this time? It was beaten again.

Third Attempt

Numbers 22:26–27 ESV
26 Then the angel of the Lord went ahead and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam. And Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff.
A third time, the angel of the Lord re-positioned Himself with the intent of killing Balaam, positioning himself in a narrow crack - a place where the angel and His divine mission could not be avoided.. A third time, the donkey saw the angel and seeing it had no place to go, collapsed underneath Balaam. The response of Balaam? He beat the donkey again.
But interestingly enough it was not the donkey seeing the angel that was so amazing. Now, we see something truly amazing - the donkey speaks.

Mouth Opened

Numbers 22:28–30 ESV
28 Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.” 30 And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?” And he said, “No.”
What really puts an interesting twist on this whole story is at the time of the third beating God allows the donkey’s mouth to be opened and for the master to hear what was being spoken.
Now, I don’t know about you all, but if I were riding a horse and it turned around and started imitating Mr. Ed… I think I would be a little surprised. But!!! Balaam doesn’t bat an eye. There is no eyebrow raised. Not even a gasp or sideways thought. No, when the donkey started speaking to Balaam, he listened. This donkey did not speak on its own - we are not in a Pinocchio scene here - God opened its mouth. And think of what was said:
The donkey fussed at its master for beating it.
Balaam then fussed back at the donkey. Threatening to kill it, if he had a sword. Balaam didn’t realize it was not the donkey that made a fool of him, he did a great job of that himself.
But then the donkey reasons with Balaam. Asking him if she had not served him well over the years.
The donkey reasoned with the fool, and the fool had to agree.
How often have we fussed with God, only to have him reason with us, and then we have no option but to agree?
You see, it wasn’t until Balaam understood the magnitude of what was happening, from the donkey’s perspective, that God allowed him to see the danger that faced him.

Eyes Opened

Numbers 22:31–34 ESV
31 Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face. 32 And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let her live.” 34 Then Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you stood in the road against me. Now therefore, if it is evil in your sight, I will turn back.”
When Balaam’s eyes were opened, he then could see the danger ahead. The angel of the Lord standing, sword drawn. It was the magnitude of this image, what could have happened, that caused him to fall to the ground in fear. Instead of following through with God’s divine plan of death for Balaam, He addressed his actions of beating his donkey. The angel condemned him because of his resistant heart to God’s will. And, He gave the warning that God would have killed Balaam because of his stubborn, disobedient resistance to God’s will IF the donkey had not stopped.
Balaam confessed his sin. Repented, and turned back to God.

Following God’s Will

Numbers 22:35–38 ESV
35 And the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only the word that I tell you.” So Balaam went on with the princes of Balak. 36 When Balak heard that Balaam had come, he went out to meet him at the city of Moab, on the border formed by the Arnon, at the extremity of the border. 37 And Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not send to you to call you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?” 38 Balaam said to Balak, “Behold, I have come to you! Have I now any power of my own to speak anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that must I speak.”
What changed with Balaam? He realized his sin against God.
Repentance - turning away from a life of sin and turning towards a life of following God’s Will.
The angel of the Lord then allowed Balaam to continue on his journey but with a new mission. To speak ONLY the words of the Lord.
Balaam stayed true to God’s calling. He went to Moab, and told Balak He would only speak what God put in his mouth.


This is a dramatic lesson that shows God’s anger and displeasure with the world of the occult. God stands opposed to any false prophet, diviner, sorcerer, psychic, palm-reader, fortune-teller, or astrologer. God is angry with any person who uses the fears and hopes of people to gain profit or money.
How often have we been Balaam, willfully defying God? Going against His guidance, His urging, His direction? Something we can never forget we cannot hide our true intentions from God.
Psalm 139:1–3 ESV
1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.
How often have we bucked against God? Had the same resistant heart towards God? Thought more about what we can accomplish instead of what God wants to accomplish through us?
Balaam had allowed greed to control him. As a result, he had turned away from God.
A stubborn, hard heart is condemned by God and will face God’s judgment.
It’s only when we realize our depraved, sinful state, turn back to God, and repent that our condemnation will ever change.
How was Balaam spared? He recognized his wickedness, saw the punishment he deserved for disobeying God, and repented.
What donkey has God used to catch your attention? Maybe, like Ira Sankey, we may never even know the danger we were in.
Goes to show even the hardest of heart can be changed. God’s judgment can be avoided. Today, you can also turn to God and repent.
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