Making Do with Donkeys

There are a couple stories about donkeys in the Bible. One of them was given a voice; another one gave Jesus a lift into Jerusalem.

In the book of Numbers, we read of the talking donkey. There, we are told the story of the king of Moab who sought out a soothsayer, a magician of some sort who had developed a reputation for calling down curses.

Balak, the king, got news of the people of Israel – word of their numbers and how their God preceded them. Like Pharaoh in Exodus 1, this leader viewed Israel as an enemy to be reckoned with. Word of the decimation of Egypt circulated through the region. The stories of the plagues and the Red Sea’s opening and closing were known.

The God of Israel was feared, but not feared in the sense that read of in Proverbs.  In that book, we come to understand that there is a way of reverence and awe for the Lord that is noted as “the fear of the Lord” that marks the beginning of wisdom.

The king of Moab, rather, was terrified. He didn’t want wisdom; instead, he wanted to preserve his throne, his nation, and his land by any means possible. He recognized the supernatural element at work with Israel. He thought the Lord of all Creation was like the gods he knew about, just another deity who could be bought off. A little bit of appeasement, he thought, might work to protect his reign. And so Balak sent for Balaam, a man of trickery and power available for the right price. The king hired him to pronounce one of his spells on Israel.

The thing that strikes me as odd in the account (see Numbers, chapters 2-25) is just whose ears may hear from the Lord. Balaam gets a visitation and instruction – from God. This is not a man of Israel; he is no descendent of Abraham, and yet God talks to him a number of times.

Perhaps, we should not be so surprised by this encounter. We can read of the Lord coming to see others who are by accounts outside of His chosen ones, starting with Cain.

Yes, the Lord met and talked with the man who murdered his brother, Abel. The exchange ended with Cain going out from the presence of the Lord and starting to build his own city. The Lord also visited Hagar and Abimelech and Laban and Nebuchadnezzar to name a few.

A Beast Speaks

Balaam heard the Lord and agreed with Him. The Lord gave this man seemingly conflicting messages – at first the Lord said, “Don’t go” with Balak’s emissaries to Moab and then later God told Balaam, “Go.”

It was while he was going that Balaam’s beast was given a message to speak. And here is where we get insight into the heart of this magic man. He could hear both God and the donkey. Balaam, in my thinking, was double-minded and therefore unstable in his ways as James 1:8 teaches us.

The point I want to bring home is that the Lord used the beast and her tongue to get His message out there. What does God need to make Himself known, a donkey’s mouth, nothing more.

I have to consider this reality as I am preparing to minister for Him. I can be very clever in my ways. I have digested a lot of books and listened to a lot of teaching, but my intellect could really get in the way of me saying what God really wants to say. Like that donkey, I just have to open my mouth and let Him fill it.

What really counts is what the Lord puts on the lips. Click To Tweet

What really counts is what the Lord puts on the lips.

Balaam, it seems to me, became something like his donkey when he at last got to Moab and stood before King Balak. This prophet for hire was now at work for the Lord and he was compelled to tell only the truth that God gave to him.

Commissioned to pronounce curses on Israel a number of times, Balaam, in this situation, spoke real prophecy as the Lord prompted him. He declared Israel a nation of God’s people, as ones Chosen to be blessed and prosperous as His representatives for all generations.

The Phrase That Frees

What of the other donkey? We meet this one in Mark 11. This animal was tied outside Jerusalem. Jesus directed the disciples to find the foal that had carried no one before. The donkey had an owner, but the Savior gave them the passwords so that the beast would be released to them.

“Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” say, “The Lord has need of it and send it back here immediately.’”And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go” (Mark 11:1-6).

“The Lord has need” was the phrase that activated the donkey for its mission. Those words were spoken and so Jesus had His vehicle and made His entrance into the City of David. This happened on what we now know as Palm Sunday, a day when the Prophet Zechariah’s message was fulfilled:

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).

This may be difficult for us to consider, but the Lord has need; He has need of us. He is all powerful and all knowing and everywhere present. These are true attributes of God. Still, He has made room for us to serve Him.

“The Lord has need.” That sentence set the donkey free. It’s what sets all of us free to be in His purpose and plan.

Foolish and Weak Things

Remember, Jesus made it clear that the last shall be first. He made friends with the sinners and the outcasts. He told us all that we must become like little children in order to see the kingdom of God (see Matthew 18:1-5).

These stories about the donkeys tell me that I really don’t need to have much going for me, worldly speaking. I can hear His call and answer His call and He will send me. In fact, the Savior seeks the ones who are seen as foolish and weak to carry Him and His Message to the corners of our streets and to the ends of the earth.

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:26-28).

We don’t have to be great in the world’s eyes to be useful in Heaven’s sights. We just need to be like donkeys ready and waiting to give Jesus a ride.




Steve Andrulonis
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