The donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand. Numbers 22:23
What happens next is quite extraordinary. Balaam’s donkey experiences a theophany. There are a number of occasions in the Old Testament when God takes on a visible form and appears, but this is the only occasion where God appears to an animal.
The angel of the Lord appears and stands in front of the donkey with a drawn sword. Balaam is not able to see the angel, but the donkey does. It happens three times. The first time, the donkey bolts into a field. The second time, the donkey crushes Balaam’s foot against a wall. And the third time, the donkey just lies down and refuses to go any further.
Then Balaam beats the donkey—poor animal. It is being driven forward by Balaam, and it is being held back by God.
God was using this as a picture of what Balaam was doing. God had stood in his way saying, “You can’t curse these people.” But Balaam was determined that he would find a way to please Balak, who wanted them cursed. Balaam was like the donkey—between a rock and a hard place. He was being driven on by a king, and he was being held up by God.
Eventually God enables the donkey to speak, which must have humbled Balaam. His marvelous gift was to speak the Word of God, and God basically says, “I can put my Word in the mouth of a donkey, and what’s more, the donkey can see when I am standing in the way and knows to stop. That’s more than you do, Balaam!”
Do you feel like you are between a rock and a hard place too?