Balaam’s ass

Today Sam is down in London seeing an ‘energy healer’.  He has been so excited about this, waiting for it for weeks, counting the days, talking to the guy on the phone most days, full of hope… He has spent every penny he can lay his hands on to afford the one-off appointment.  We have really struggled with this decision, as ‘orthodox’ Christian parents… but he is an adult: to stand in his way is not only divisive, but impossible. I have come a long way in the seven long weeks since posting Letting go. Sam is on his own spiritual journey and this appointment today is his response to experiencing the touch of God when he was prayed for by George Miller in October. We are at peace and he is in the Lord’s hands.

But what will happen? How will God work and what, if anything, will He do? We are in no doubt that He is the One who gives good gifts and there is no other power permitted to operate here: any glory is going to Him alone!  Perhaps we are past expecting a ‘suddenly’ healing – though that would be wonderful! – but having had the unexpected good news of the last scan we are certainly strengthened in the process of pressing in for gradual recovery.

In our season of Prayer Gym during Sam’s radiotherapy treatment last year one of the clearest – and strangest – revelations we were given was of a series of 3 pictures.  The mature and reliable prophet who saw these is always worth listening to and I have ‘stored them up in my heart’: 6 candles guttering in a strong wind but not being blown out, 6 glasses being filled up with water slowly from the bottom and 6 red roses gradually turning white, again from below.  All these imply gradual change, a slow imbibing process, perseverance through the storm, filling, cleansing and transformation – and 6 is the number of ‘man’.  Sam has thrown himself into every possible route for healing known to man: surely this is that?

Another key word we were given at that time was the story of Hezekiah’s recovery in Isaiah 38.  Many people use this passage to ask for another 15 years of life – and in Hezekiah’s case this was not a good thing for those who came after him!  But the verse that stuck out to us was “Isaiah had said, ‘Prepare a poultice of figs and put it on the boil and he will recover'” Sam was just starting to take his hemp oil at that time – a herbal remedy that bore enough of a resemblance to a poultice of figs to make me hope…

Recently a friend who has been hurt by life and church and is full of questions about the way our faith in Jesus is so often expressed, yet has been of invaluable help to our family and is praying faithfully for Sam, sent me this extraordinary message:

Know what I like about the Christmas stories? The seamless interaction between heaven and earth. But in my previous ‘charismatic’ days I would have seen the power of God as ‘interventionist’ – imposed vertically into this space-time realm from heaven. Now I would see the power of God as operating in a creational continuum.  Hence the wise men were not ‘born again’ converts, but pagan astrologists. Could you imagine them leading the worship in a meeting? Yet their worship leading is forever enshrined in scripture.

So re healing of your son, perhaps God has put some balaam’s asses around him to harness the innate healing power of creation? Whether vertical/orthodox or horizontal/unconventional, the power of Jesus brims everywhere.  This change of perspective brings surprising results.  Being a recovering fundamentalist I perceive a lot more demonic power in church structures and a lot more Jesus’ power in the so-called “world” than I previously perceived.  And paradoxically, my appreciation of Jesus’ victory and the defeat of satan is even stronger!  I had no idea how strong Jesus was as Lord of Creation when I was a “Christian”: odd eh?

What do we make of that? It makes rather a lot of sense… many of us are seeing a much bigger picture than we were as if our eyes have been opened wider. Why shouldn’t the Sovereign Lord use a few asses if he so chooses – a Cyrus or Bob Geldoff or two?

Balaam was a rather ‘iffy’ character in Numbers 22-25, a diviner and a sorcerer, hired by Balak, the king of Moab, to curse the Israelites as they passed through his land! It seems he did have access to God and generally did what He said (Numbers 22v8-13, 18-20) but when it came to it, his donkey could see more than he could!

That night God came to Balaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.” Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him. [But God, You SAID he could go! You obviously didn’t mean it!]

Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road. Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, it pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat the donkey again. Then the angel of the LORD moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff.

Then the LORD opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.”[WHAT? Balaam, its a talking donkey!] The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?” “No,” he said [He’s having a conversation with it! Its like something out of Shrek or Narnia!]

Then the LORD opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown [Nice reference to yesterday’s post there!] The angel of the LORD asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before Me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.” Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, “I have sinned. I did not realize You were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.” The angel of the LORD said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.  Numbers 22v20-35

In the end much to Balak’s annoyance, Balaam had to bless the Israelites: he couldn’t curse those whom God had blessed and he didn’t dare try, no matter how much he was being paid.  The duo pop up again in Peter’s second letter, where Balaam is a byword for greed and the donkey again comes out of it better than he does: ‘Balaam son of Bezer loved the wages of wickedness, but he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—an animal without speech—who spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness” 2 Peter 2v15-16. I suppose after saving her ungrateful master’s life, his donkey continued to serve him faithfully for many more years… though whether she ever had a conversation with her master or saw the angel of the Lord again is not recorded!

Well, I really don’t know whether Kris Kraft is anything like Balaam or Balaam’s ass.  But I certainly do know that God can speak to and through donkeys, pagans and men who take money to do something they don’t have the power to do in order to ensure that it is His will that gets done! 🙂


About Sally Ann

True-story teller - words and pictures
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