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Things In Our Way

Michael Beck

“And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall: and he smote her again.” (Numbers 22:25)

Despite all Balaam’s pious talk about only doing God’s will, he really, really, really wanted to take that gig with Balak. He couldn’t get it off his mind. Here was the open door he’d always wanted. His talents were being sought after. His dreams could finally come true.

No matter how exciting the idea appears, not every opportunity we’re offered is of God. When Balaam brought it before the Lord, he clearly heard: “Thou shalt not go with them” (Num. 22:12). That should have put an end to it; but Balaam wouldn’t let his dream die, and Balak was a determined suitor. A new batch of emissaries were sent with the message: “Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me” (Num. 22:16)

No matter how exciting the idea appears, not every opportunity we’re offered is of God.

At first, Balaam appeared to be standing strong: “If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more.” (Num. 22:18) But was he really submitting to God, resisting his tempters, and watching them flee? No. He was leaving the door open for them to stay, and tempting God, as he told them he would “pray about” what should have already been settled. “Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the LORD will say unto me more.” (Num. 22:19)

The world wants nothing to hinder us from following our dreams. No matter what the cost, we are encouraged to go confidently in the direction of our dreams, and live the life we’ve imagined. The antichrist spirit of the world scoffs at the idea of letting God place a yoke on us. Never! That nagging thing called conscience? Shut it up. You have an idol to bow down to and you must be true to it.

The antichrist spirit of the world scoffs at the idea of letting God place a yoke on us.

And so, God did with Balaam what He does with all who are stubborn. “But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels.” (Ps. 81:11,12) God didn’t strive with Balaam. He gave him the “green light” to proceed, not down a path toward blessing, but onto a road toward judgment.

Balaam’s new adventure didn’t get off to a good start. “And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab. And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him.” (Num. 22:21,22) Even at this stage: there was one final attempt to restrain the prophet from satisfying his mad obsession. God sent a menacing angel with a sword in his hand, warning Balaam not to go any further. But Balaam was too blind to see the danger ahead. Yes, donkeys have more sense than obsessed human beings, and know to turn aside. “And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field …” (Num. 22:23) But Balaam was not about to let this dumb animal deter him: “… and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way.” (Num. 22:23) Every which way the poor donkey turned, she saw the angel and stopped; and each time she stopped she got beaten by the increasingly enraged idolator.

Finally, God opened the mouth of the donkey and opened the eyes of Balaam to see what was happening. The angel didn’t mince words: “Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me: And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive.” (Num. 22:32,33) But was that enough for Balaam to simply make a u-turn? No. “And Balaam said unto the angel of the LORD, I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again.” (Num. 22:34) “If it displease thee?” Should there have been any question in his mind if what he is doing was displeasing to God? The expression “more stubborn than a mule” certainly fits Balaam.

Like never before, our world has come to the place where such idolatry is celebrated.

This story which seems like a fairy tale is only too “real to life,” played out countless times in the lives of stubborn human beings who worship their dreams. They may pretend otherwise, but they are determined to do what they want to do. They live in fury toward anything that frustrates their forward progress. They have a destination in mind that they must reach. They must “live the life they’ve imagined.” Will they let anything get in their way? Absolutely not. In fact, such obstacles are meant to be overcome. A major part of their story is how they courageously let nothing stop them – not even God.

The Bible equates idolatry with covetousness and the stubbornness connected to it. (Col. 3:5;1 Sam. 15:23) Like never before, our world has come to the place where such idolatry is celebrated. Idolators, who have indeed fulfilled their dreams, let the world know they have no regrets. “I did it my way.” Yes, you did; but “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Prov. 14:12) Balaam’s end was not pretty. “Balaam also the son of Beor, the soothsayer, did the children of Israel slay with the sword among them that were slain by them.” (Joshua 13:22)

It is not wrong to have desires and to make plans to fulfill them. But it is wrong to view God as a hindrance and to blow through His “stop signs.” “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.” (Prov. 16:9) The godly person, who is a true worshipper of God, lets God have the final say. He doesn’t need a “crushed foot” to stop his progress down a certain path. He doesn’t have eyes full of adultery that cannot cease from sin. (2 Pet. 2:14) He doesn’t become enraged at those who are uncooperative around him. The world doesn’t revolve around him and his desires. And he doesn’t end up on the junk pile of history.

We will have eternal regret that we were driven by our passion and not led by God.

No matter how right or good we imagine it will feel to fulfill our desires or dreams; no matter how much honor or riches we will gain by doing so, it will not be worth it in the end. We will have eternal regret that we were driven by our passion and not led by God. If God is truly in something, He will confirm it to you; if He is not, He will also let you know. Do yourself a great favor: get God’s hint. No matter how glorious your dream may seem, if God is in your way, your destination is not worth getting to.


Michael Beck is a pastor in the Dallas, TX area and the main author on Signpost. Receive a daily devotional he publishes every morning via email.