Friday, February 1, 2013

Leviticus 25-27, Numbers 1-30

from LePage's "Word" collection
First, a shout-out to Jim LePage, one of my favorite artists.  I am not a big fan of Numbers, but i love what he did with it. Because here's the thing: Numbers is really mostly just that. It's a census report, complete with names and genealogies and a rehashing of the law. Because i hadn't already read the law three times by this point.

There is some cool stuff though, like one of my favorite Sunday School Bible stories: Balaam's donkey.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, i'd urge you to read the whole thing (it's not that long), in Numbers 22:1-35. For now, i'll summarize it.

Balaam was from Mesopotamia, and appears to have been some sort of magician or prophet. He knew something about the Israelites, but was not one of them. As the Israelites were cutting a bloody path through the ancient world, seeking to establish their Promised Land, they ran up against rulers from many different nations. Balak, king of the Midionites, called for Balaam to curse the Israelites, hoping to prevent them from attacking his people. Balaam accepted their fee and prepared to go, but God said, "Yeah, no. You can't curse My people." So then Balaam told the princes to go back home. They did, and then they sent more princes and more money and more dignitaries and honors, and asked him again. So God said, "If they keep begging, you can go, but only say the words I give you."

They didn't exactly keep begging, but Balaam went with them anyway, so God sent an angel to stand in their path. Balaam didn't notice, but the donkey he was riding did, and walked into a field to avoid the angel (who was standing there with a drawn sword). Balaam beat the donkey and got her back on the road. A little while later, as the path wound between two walls, the angel showed up again. The donkey pressed close to the wall, trying to squeeze past the angel, and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall, so he beat her again. Then the angel stood on a high, narrow path, where there was no way to avoid him, and the donkey laid down in the road. Balaam, enraged, began to beat her again, and the donkey spoke to him, asking why he kept beating her.
"Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!" said Balaam (vs 29).
vs. 31 "So the donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?" And he said, "No."

Then Balaam saw the angel and realized that the donkey had saved his life three times. He repented, and promised to say whatever God wanted him to say.

Couple of things about this: first, what the donkey said. Now, donkeys are notoriously stubborn and difficult, but this one has belonged to Balaam for a long time, and has apparently never given him trouble before. And the very first time she does, he gets angry and assumes she's just being stupid or stubborn or lazy, and never stops to consider if there might be a reason for her behavior. How often do we do this: something that always works for us, something that we have come to take for granted, stops working, and instead of considering whether there might be a reason for it, we heap abuse upon that thing (or that person, or that animal, or that whatever). Maybe that breakdown is God's way of trying to get our attention. Maybe that thing (or person, or animal) is trying to save us from something. Don't immediately get angry at delays and setbacks. Look around to see what might be behind them.

Second, am i the only one who is a little bit happy that the donkey is specifically noted to be female? Anyone who says that God's design is for women to serve men, who says that women can't lead in the church, who says that God doesn't call or speak to women, that women shouldn't lead or speak to men, they should read this and shut the hell up. God spoke to Balaam, and when Balaam wouldn't listen, He spoke to a female animal, who listened to His word and chastised Balaam. When God speaks, we are ALL empowered to listen, obey, and prophesy.

And finally, i leave you with these:

from the "Old & New" project

No comments:

Post a Comment