May 25, 2023

God looks out for His kids. He keeps His word.

Numbers 22

Brett Bruster
Thursday's Devo

May 25, 2023

Thursday's Devo

May 25, 2023

Big Idea

God's instruction can always be trusted.

Key Verse | Numbers 22:32

And the angel of the LORD said to him, "Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me."

Numbers 22

Balak Summons Balaam

Then the people of Israel set out and camped in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan at Jericho. And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. And Moab was in great dread of the people, because they were many. Moab was overcome with fear of the people of Israel. And Moab said to the elders of Midian, “This horde will now lick up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field.” So Balak the son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor at Pethor, which is near the River 1 22:5 That is, the Euphrates in the land of the people of Amaw, 2 22:5 Or the people of his kindred to call him, saying, “Behold, a people has come out of Egypt. They cover the face of the earth, and they are dwelling opposite me. Come now, curse this people for me, since they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.”

So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fees for divination in their hand. And they came to Balaam and gave him Balak's message. And he said to them, “Lodge here tonight, and I will bring back word to you, as the LORD speaks to me.” So the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam. And God came to Balaam and said, “Who are these men with you?” 10 And Balaam said to God, “Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent to me, saying, 11 ‘Behold, a people has come out of Egypt, and it covers the face of the earth. Now come, curse them for me. Perhaps I shall be able to fight against them and drive them out.’” 12 God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” 13 So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balak, “Go to your own land, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you.” 14 So the princes of Moab rose and went to Balak and said, “Balaam refuses to come with us.”

15 Once again Balak sent princes, more in number and more honorable than these. 16 And they came to Balaam and said to him, “Thus says Balak the son of Zippor: ‘Let nothing hinder you from coming to me, 17 for I will surely do you great honor, and whatever you say to me I will do. Come, curse this people for me.’” 18 But Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the LORD my God to do less or more. 19 So you, too, please stay here tonight, that I may know what more the LORD will say to me.” 20 And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men have come to call you, rise, go with them; but only do what I tell you.” 21 So Balaam rose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab.

Balaam's Donkey and the Angel

22 But God's anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 And the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand. And the donkey turned aside out of the road and went into the field. And Balaam struck the donkey, to turn her into the road. 24 Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. 25 And when the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pushed against the wall and pressed Balaam's foot against the wall. So he struck her again. 26 Then the angel of the LORD went ahead and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam. And Balaam's anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. 28 Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.” 30 And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?” And he said, “No.”

31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face. 32 And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse 3 22:32 Or reckless before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let her live.” 34 Then Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you stood in the road against me. Now therefore, if it is evil in your sight, I will turn back.” 35 And the angel of the LORD said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only the word that I tell you.” So Balaam went on with the princes of Balak.

36 When Balak heard that Balaam had come, he went out to meet him at the city of Moab, on the border formed by the Arnon, at the extremity of the border. 37 And Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not send to you to call you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?” 38 Balaam said to Balak, “Behold, I have come to you! Have I now any power of my own to speak anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that must I speak.” 39 Then Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth. 40 And Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep, and sent for Balaam and for the princes who were with him.

41 And in the morning Balak took Balaam and brought him up to Bamoth-baal, and from there he saw a fraction of the people.


[1] 22:5 That is, the Euphrates
[2] 22:5 Or the people of his kindred
[3] 22:32 Or reckless

"A talking donkey?"

Listen Now

Dive Deeper | Numbers 22

Numbers 22 describes a situation in which the king of Moab, Balak, is frightened because Israel has defeated the great Sihon, king of the Amorites, who had defeated Moab. Balak knows he has no ability to defend his country from the Israelites. So he summons Balaam, a renowned "diviner" (one who discerns the will of the gods). Many of us are confused by this story for two reasons: the first is that we wonder why Balaam can talk to God and, therefore, is he a follower of YHWH? But this question is not what the text communicates. The real point is that this man, who is able to have a direct conversation with God, believes God's promise to bless His children might be thwarted (so that Balaam himself might be enriched).

Though God had forbidden Balaam to go to King Balak upon the first request, God allowed Balaam to go on the second request to make a point. Nothing will thwart God from carrying out His promises to bless His people. The point of the story is made with humor when a donkey is even more in tune with his Creator than this great diviner. Balaam's donkey sees the angel of the LORD, while Balaam is oblivious to his presence.

Ultimately, this story should speak to all of us. I spent years running from a truth that I knew deep in my innermost being. I am grateful that one day God made His presence so real that I could no longer run. None of us, not one, can thwart the Word of God. No matter how tragic, how painful, how unjust this current world is, the love of God as expressed in the Word of God, Jesus Christ, will never be defeated. Therefore, we who are in Christ are victors. Give thanks to the God of heaven. His steadfast love endures forever (Psalm 136), and nothing can separate us from that love (Romans 8:35-39)!

This month's memory verse

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

– Philippians 2:3–4

Discussion Questions

1. Have you put your trust in the promise of God to forgive sins (Psalm 86:5) and to give you a new life (2 Corinthians 5:17)?

2. Which do you trust most: the promises of God (Joshua 21:45) or the "promises" of the world (1 John 2:15-17)?

3. Is God speaking into an aspect of your life in which you are not listening to Him (John 10:27-28; Luke 11:28)?

Respond to Today's Passage

Sign In to Respond

Hugh Stephenson

Good morning, Brett! A wonderful joy to see you on The Journey this morning. I am very grateful for the many ways the Bruster family blessings Watermark and so much of the Dallas area. The service of you, Jan and your family is a great testament to the work God is doing through all of you. Q1. I’m a slow learner so I entered through the “Late Arrivals” lobby. In this and in many other ways I am thankful for the patience of God; and even more for His mercies, (Lamentations 3:22-23) Q2. Another late-in-life learning. I chased and caught the promises of the world and found them empty, worthless and nothing more than a short term “fix”. The last many years have shown me that the promises and blessings of God are priceless and everlasting, (John 15:10-11, Philippians 4:6-7, Matthew 11:28). Q3. The surrender that I desire seems hard to live out in the practical world. Busyness becomes a coping mechanism.

Hugh Stephenson

Does it take a talking donkey to get my attention? 2 Timothy 3:16 - For me, it’s always a bit risky to make a direct link from a passage to a truth/promise/command. Sometimes not. I’m thinking back to the 12 spies whose report turned a short journey of maybe 11 days, (say some scholars), to 38 years. But, Balaak, the king of Moab is terrified of the Israelites, see Numbers 22:3-4, 6. Wouldn’t the people of Canaan be terrified? Especially when they see the amazing works of Yahweh? The Egyptians were so scared that the Pharaoh enslaved all of them. I note the powerful imagery used by Balaak, comparing the Israelites to oxen and themselves to grass that is to be “licked up”. Now THAT’s scared. So, I see the critical need to know God so well that trust, surrender, and obedience is as natural as breathing. Joseph knew. As did Joshua. The Word of God tells me over and over “Fear Not”, or a similar command. I’m taught it’s the most often command in Scripture. A friend notes- “God is always the supply of what he demands. Depend on his sufficiency”. Yet, way too often my lack of trust more closely resembles Balaam than Joseph or Joshua. Does it take a modern version of the talking donkey to wake me up? Way too often, the answer is yes. All that said, the answer to my opening question is “yes”. It DOES take a talking donkey. To me, Balaam looks like a dead-church-box-checker. Nodding assent to the word of God. But, also looking out for himself along the way. Not exactly Luke 22:42 level of obedience. “As the old saying goes, 'The Lord can strike a mighty blow with a crooked stick,' ..." I see the turn in Numbers 22:38. After this, Balaam can only be the vessel that God has intended and commanded. "... even a beast is more capable of discerning things from the higher world, than a man blinded by sinful desires." Balaam just says what God tells him to say. The contrast between this “pagan seer” and the Israelites is painful. Here’s what I see as the path to faithfulness that God lays out for me- Knowledge of who God is leads to trust- -which leads to surrender -which leads to obedience -which leads to joy, peace, rest, and all the 7,487 promises of God.

Hugh Stephenson

Bible nerd stuff "Balaam is the pagan counterpart to Moses the man of God. The recovery of prophetic texts of Balaam in Aramaic from the sixth century at Deir-'Allah in Jordan shows how very famous this man was in the ancient Near East, even centuries after his death."[384]

Michael Sisson

On a personal note, thank you for the shoutout yesterday, Hugh. It’s always gratifying to know when something I’ve shared resonates with others. INTRODUCTION: You’ll recall from Gen 19:37, the Moabites were the descendants of Lot, resulting from Lot’s incestuous union with his eldest daughter. Their king, Balak, was new to the throne. “When the Moabites heard about the defeat of the Amorite kings Sichon and Og, they decided to join forces with their longtime enemies the Midianites in order to present a united front. The Moabites then installed a new king, Tzur of Midian, who was renamed Balak. Perhaps the Moabites chose a Midian king because Moses himself lived there for many years with Yitro. [Jethro] “King Balak was a magician, trained in kishuf (the occult and magic). Instead of preparing for a conventional war, however, he hired the services of a renowned magician named Bil'am son of Beor ("Balaam"). His plan was to fight Israel by means of spiritual powers. Perhaps he thought that if he and Bil'am combined their powers, they could defeat Israel.“ — Hebrew For Christians Likewise, as you may recall from our study of Gen 31, Jewish tradition holds Balaam was the grandson of Laban. “Laban's worship of the serpent (nachash) led him to become one of the first enemies of the Jewish people. He tried to make Jacob a slave from the beginning, later claiming that all his descendants and possessions belonged to him (Gen 31:43). Later Laban had a son named Beor (בְּעוֹר) who became the father of the wicked prophet Balaam (בִּלְעָם). In other words, the ‘cursing prophet’ Balaam was none other than the grandson of Laban. (See Balak & Balaam’s Family Tree: “In Jewish tradition, Laban is regarded as even more wicked than the Pharaoh who enslaved the Jews in Egypt. This enmity is enshrined during the Passover Seder when we recall Laban's treachery as the one who ‘sought to destroy our father, Jacob.’ Spiritually understood, Laban's hatred of Jacob (i.e., Israel) was intended to eradicate the Jewish nation at the very beginning. Had Laban succeeded, Israel would have been assimilated and disappeared from history. God's plan for the redemption of humanity through the Promised Seed would have been overturned (Gen 3:15). But even despite being thwarted by God's direct intervention (Gen 31:24), Laban carefully passed on his hatred of the Jews to his grandson Balaam. The Zohar says that Balaam became ‘a disciple of’ Laban, so that for all practical purposes they functioned as the same person. ‘As great as Moses was in the realm of spirituality and purity, Balaam was his equal in the realm of witchcraft and impurity’ (Tanna Eliyahu).” — Hebrew For Christians COMMENTARY: Re: Num 22:20 Num 22:20 (NASB) >>>God came to Balaam at night and said to him,<<< “If the men have come to call you, rise up and go with them; but >>>only the word which I speak to you shall you do.”<<< This seemingly sets up a Christophany in Num 22:35. See “…the angel of the LORD said to Balaam, ‘…you shall speak only the word which I tell you,’” in Num 22:35. See also, “… The word that God puts in my mouth, that I shall speak,” in Num 22:38. Re: Num 22:28-30 Balaam seems remarkably unphased by his donkey talking. SEASONAL BONUS: At sundown today (5/25), Jews will begin observing Shavuot (the “Feast of Weeks,” sundown 5/25/23 - sundown 5/27/23 in the Diaspora), one of three “Feasts of Obligation” (Ex 23:14-17, Dt 16:16). The Feast of Weeks occurs >>>seven weeks<<< after Passover. Gentiles know Shavuot better as “Pentecost.” (Gk. for “fifty days”) Sadly, just as Christendom moved Easter off Passover, so Pentecost was moved off Shavuot. (See Emperor Constantine’s letter for the shameful reasoning behind that decision: This Sunday (5/28/23), Christendom will celebrate Pentecost. The two events are synonymous. Shavuot (Pentecost) recalls the giving of the Torah at Sinai. How appropriate that G-d should choose the same occasion to “pour out” His Spirit (Acts 2:1-47, Isa 44:3, Ezk 39:29, Joel 2:28-29), through Whom He circumcises our hearts (Dt 10:16, 30:6; Jer 4:4, and Rom 2:29) and writes His Torah upon our hearts (Dt 17:18, Jer 31:31-33, Ezk 11:19, 36:26-27). By tradition, the Book of Ruth is read during Shavuot. As gentile believers in Yeshua (Jesus), let us be like Ruth (a Moabitess) and not like Orpah. Ruth 1:15-18 (ESV) 15 And she [Naomi] said, “See, your sister-in-law [Orpah] has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” >>>16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”<<< 18 And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more. For a deeper dive into Ruth and the lessons the Church can take from it, see this Obed Project article: For a deeper dive into Shavuot, read the following overview from Hebrew For Christians:

Michael Scaman

God will do things that are stumbling blocks to the so called 'wise' like part a sea, send manna and have a donkey rebuke a so called 'prophet'. Balaam had two servants with him. I wonder if they heard the donkey talk as well. That would be freaky cool. He may have had witnesses. Maybe that is there to let us know Balaam wasn't off his rocker imagining it. "An undeserved curse does not alight" says Proverbs and God restrained curses from alighting on Israel through Balaam. 'Curse warfare' was a dud in this account so the next thing to try will be 'morality warfare' undermining the nation spiritually but one of the casualties will be Balaam son of Beor. Many think Balaam may have been into 'animal omens", something Israel would not do." The fact that Balaam’s eyes were covered and the fact that the angel of YHWH (rather than Balaam) interpreted the events seem to illustrate in narrative form what Balaam later proclaims in poetic form—that there is “no augury in Jacob and no divination n Israel” (Num 23:23a). Thus it appears that the biblical version of the Balaam traditions acknowledges [the practice of animal omens in the ancient world]" But God made Balaam the joke and in the end Balaam's heart was full of greed for money and not a hunger for God, Wrongly placed treasures and pleasures.

Amy Lowther

1. Yes, God can help you see and approach life to get the best options of what is available. 2. I feel the promises of the world come from the promises of God. 3. No. It is best to listen to God.

Sue Bohlin

Thanks for your devo, Brett. Interesting to see Proverbs 26:2 referenced in Michael Scaman's comment, because that figured strongly in my response to today's reading as well. On, I discovered this treasure in one of their articles: "The Israelites could not be cursed because God had blessed them. It was not just Balaam who was unable to curse the Israelites; no one could do so." This made me think about what a marvelous divine protection we have; Ephesians 1:3 tells us we have been blessed with EVERY spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ. If we are blessed by God, no curse can alight on us. ("As the bird by flitting, as the swallow by flying, so the curse without cause will not alight.") This truth strikes me as a powerful way to fight back against the enemy's lies and deceptions, which can get people to think they are being cursed by Satan or his emissaries. The same God who would not allow a gun-for-hire diviner to pronounce a curse on His people is protecting His people today. And one other [unrelated] thing: it just cracks me up that Balaam actually had a conversation with his donkey instead of exclaiming, "Holy ****! A talking donkey??!!!" 🤣🤣🤣