Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 1606–1669
Balaam and the Ass (Numbers 22:27)
THE woman in the car behind me was not happy, and I was the cause of her unhappiness. She made this clear by “hugging” my rear bumper (but not in the affectionate sense) and by making impatient gestures (which I could see in my rear view mirror). When these attempts failed to achieve the desired result, she began honking her horn (assuming perhaps that I had somehow remained oblivious to her previous communication attempts).
I’m no fool. I knew what she wanted. She wanted me out of her way—immediately!
I could have sped up, passed the car in the lane next to me, and moved out of her way. But I chose not to. I could see what the woman behind me could not—a police car parked just ahead of us. So I held my position, maintained the speed limit, and kept the wild woman from getting a speeding ticket—or worse.
As soon as the traffic thinned out, the woman darted around me and disappeared over the horizon. Did she mouth the words “thank you” when she passed, acknowledging the favor I had done for her? No. She just sped away into the rest of her life, leaving me to ponder the lesson I had just learned about my role in the universe.
That day, my role was to play the part of Balaam’s donkey. Like the unnamed animal in the biblical story, I stood between a wayward person and potential trouble.
Many people have played that role in my life: parents, teachers, youth leaders, roommates, friends, husband. Seeing the trouble I was heading for, they stubbornly stood in my way, doing their best to prevent me from making foolish choices.
Did I thank them? Not very often. I was too busy pouting because they had kept me from getting something I thought I couldn’t live without.
When we take a stand between friends and destructive choices, they may call us a traitor, but God will call us his friend. Emotionally and socially, it’s a difficult choice, but intellectually and spiritually, it’s a no-brainer. (Copyright © 2000 Julie Ackerman Link, previously published in Campus Journal, 4 January 2000.)
I see him, but now now;Click here to hear the hymn "Come, and Christ the Lord Be Praising," which includes an allusion to this verse.
I behold him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob;
a scepter will rise out of Israel. —Numbers 24:17
Come, and Christ the Lord be praising,
Heart and mind to Him be raising,
Celebrate His love amazing,
Worthy folk of Christendom. (stanza 1)
Jacob's star His advent maketh,I was going to comment that it was much easier to write in rhyme centuries ago when so many verbs ended in "eth." But then I realized that the words rhyme even in modern English:
Soothes the longing heart that acheth,
And the serpent's head He breaketh,
Scattering the power of hell. (stanza 5)
Jacob's star His advent makes,Only problem is that you lose a syllable, so it messes up the rhythm. Life is so complex!
Soothes the longing heart that aches,
And the serpent's head He breaks,
Scattering the power of hell.