Lessons from a Talking Donkey

Balaam, blessing, and the importance of being obedient

If you paid attention during your childhood Sunday school lessons, you probably remember hearing about an Old Testament story that involves a talking donkey. Here's what happened: Balak, the leader of the Moabites, was terrified of the Israelite army. He hired a prophet named Balaam to curse the Israelites. God wasn't too pleased with this plan and used Balaam's talking donkey to let him know. See for yourself in Numbers 22.

Three times, Balak tried to make Balaam curse God's people, but blessings came out of his mouth instead of curses. Whoever said God doesn't have a sense of humor! No matter what, the Moabites couldn't say anything that would take God's blessing away from the Israelites. Wouldn't it be comforting to know that your enemies could do nothing to harm you?

Your childhood Sunday school teacher probably stopped the narrative right there, celebrating God's divine protection of his people. What she probably didn't tell you is that the story turned from humorous to tragic in Numbers 25. While waiting for God's orders, the Israelite men were seduced by the Moabite women. The power of the sexual temptation was so great that many Israelites began to sacrifice to the Moabite gods.

God's blessing upon the Israelites was withdrawn and 24,000 of them died from a plague. Because of the Israelites' immorality, God revoked his supernatural protection over them.

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Juli Slattery

Juli Slattery is a TCW regular contributor and blogger. A widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and broadcast media professional, she co-founded Authentic Intimacy and is the co-author of Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making?

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