“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 all the way to the ground. The angel of the LORD said to him, ‘Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was contrary to me. But the donkey saw me and turned aside from me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, I would surely have killed you just now, and let her live'” (Num 22:31-33).

As strange as the story of Balaam and his talking donkey may be, it is actually the exegetical key for unlocking the meaning of Balaam’s three “discourses” in the following chapters (Num 23:7, 18; 24:3). In the story of Balaam and his donkey, Balaam is completely blinded to spiritual reality. His donkey sees clearly. But on Balaam’s third attempt to circumvent the Messenger of the LORD to go and “curse” the people of Israel, God opens the donkey’s mouth as well as Balaam’s eyes to see Israel’s mighty warrior, standing with sword drawn, ready to defend and deliver his people.

Let’s consider ways this story strategically parallels the story of Balaam and Balak in the next two chapters. Balak, the spiritually blind, king tries to force Balaam (his proverbial donkey) to curse Israel three times. On Balak’s third attempt to use Balaam to curse Israel (Num 24:10), the Spirit of God fills Balaam’s mouth (Num 24:2), and opens his eyes (Num 24:3-4) to see Israel’s Messiah-Warrior whom God will send in the last days (Num 24:14) to defend and deliver his people (Num 24:7-9, 17-19).

This story of Balaam and his donkey, therefore, has at least two strategic functions. First, it shows us why we can trust Balaam’s prophetic words even though we do not accept Balaam as a true prophet. By drawing a parallel between Balaam in the second story with Balaam’s donkey in the first, we know we can trust a “talking donkey” (Balaam) when God supernaturally puts words in his mouth (Num 22:38; 23:12, 16). Second, the parallels help us see the importance of Balaam’s third discourse. So important is Balaam’s “third attempt” to get around the angel of the LORD, the author tells us three times Balaam unsuccessfully tried “three times” (Num 22:28, 32-33). By means of the parallels, the author shines the spotlight on Balaam’s third discourse. We know this third discourse will reveal things we have not seen in the first two discourses. We are definitely not disappointed. With open eyes, we see with Balaam and Balak a vision of Israel’s coming King-Messiah (Num 24:7-9, 14, 17-19).

As the nations of the world constantly try to curse the people of Israel yet again, we must not give into fear. The people whom God has blessed cannot be cursed (Num 23:8, 19-20). With open eyes, we can look confidently into the future and see Israel’s King coming to defend his land and his people. No weapon, therefore, formed against God’s people will prosper!

“And now, behold, I am going to my people; come, and I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the last days…. I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; a star shall come forth from Jacob, a scepter shall rise from Israel, and shall crush through the forehead of Moab, and tear down all the sons of Sheth. Edom shall be a possession, Seir, its enemies, also will be a possession, while Israel performs valiantly. One from Jacob shall have dominion, and will destroy the remnant from the city” (Num 24:14, 17-19).

Show the world you are One for Israel!

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