Scripture: Numbers 22:21-38
Key verse: (22) “God’s anger was kindled because Balaam was going, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the road as his adversary.”
Reflection: This passage is always a favorite of mine, talking donkeys, angels with swords, and a change of heart. Be sure to read the whole Balaam saga in Numbers 22-24. What I’ve often focused on in this passage before was Balaam’s actions. Remember the story? Balaam was just paid by the king of Moab to go and curse the Israelites, for the king knew that whoever Balaam blessed would be blessed and whomever he cursed would be cursed. As the Israelites traveled from Egypt into the promised land, the king of Moab was fearful and would do anything to keep his land safe, hence paying Balaam to curse the Israelites. An angel of the Lord appears in the path in front of Balaam, but only the donkey sees the angel with the sword! This happens three times before the angel finally stands in a narrow place where the donkey can no longer turn aside and Balaam must confront the angel.
It is intriguing to follow Balaam and his actions in this narrative, but what about how God acts? Yesterday Ben shared in the daily devotion about Jesus’ righteous anger. Interestingly in our passage for this morning we see some anger from God again as verse 22 says, “God’s anger was kindled because he (Balaam) was going, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the road as his adversary.” Notice what God does with God’s anger here. God takes a stand, gets in the way of our path, acts as an adversary to the route we are on. I wonder if we often hope for God to turn us around and show us the right way, to fix our path for us. But here we see God standing firmly but passively, blocking the way.
And yet, just like Balaam, we find ways of getting around God don’t we? We find ways of diverting our gaze from God, we find ways of taking the longer route just to stay on the way of our life. And yet, God is persistent, planted firmly in our way, taking a stand to redirect us on our way, until eventually we can’t ignore God any more.
Pause for a moment today and reflect upon the way in which you are going in life. Are there any places you might be trying to divert your gaze from God’s presence? Do you notice extra efforts that you take to continue on the path that you are currently on? Might you be blind to God standing firm in your path, calling you to repent, to turn, to go another way? Take this as an opportunity of reflection, that we may make sure we are all traveling on the way that is the truth about life, the way of Jesus, the way of love, reconciliation, and new life.
Prayer: Loving God, we give you thanks for your righteous anger, we thank you for taking a stand in our way when we need to turn. Soften our hearts that we may take your stand as a gift of new life, turning to Christ, who is the way. Amen.
Author: John Magnuson
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].