Morning Psalms 54; 146

First Reading Numbers 22:21-38

Second Reading Romans 7:1-12

Gospel Reading Matthew 21:23-32

Evening Psalms 28; 99


Numbers 22:21-38


21So Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the officials of Moab. 22God’s anger was kindled because he was going, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the road as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23The donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand; so the donkey turned off the road, and went into the field; and Balaam struck the donkey, to turn it back onto the road. 24Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. 25When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, it scraped against the wall, and scraped Balaam’s foot against the wall; so he struck it again. 26Then 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. 27When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, it lay down under Balaam; and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. 28Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me! I wish I had a sword in my hand! I would kill you right now!” 30But the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I been in the habit of treating you this way?” And he said, “No.”


31Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed down, falling on his face. 32The angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? I have come out as an adversary, because your way is perverse before me. 33The donkey saw me, and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let it live.” 34Then Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now therefore, if it is displeasing to you, I will return home.” 35The angel of the LORD said to Balaam, “Go with the men; but speak only what I tell you to speak.” So Balaam went on with the officials of Balak.


36When Balak heard that Balaam had come, he went out to meet him at Ir-moab, on the boundary formed by the Arnon, at the farthest point of the boundary. 37Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not send to summon you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?” 38Balaam said to Balak, “I have come to you now, but do I have power to say just anything? The word God puts in my mouth, that is what I must say.”


The story of Balaam’s donkey is one of those fantastical ones that makes it hard to take seriously. We can pass it by without a thought; but, if we do, we might miss the Word of God in our midst. The story suggests that even prophets have trouble noticing God’s presence—even, and especially, when they have somewhere to go or something to do. Then that one “thing” that doesn’t work, the thing that has worked in the past but is all of a sudden slowing us down, becomes an obstacle rather than a help. Rather than questioning our direction, we often question the utility of the thing holding us back. It could be a body, worn out from stress or work, telling you to slow down. It could be that comment from a friend or a loved one telling you they need you because you have been working too much. It could be that neighbor who stops you in your tracks and makes you pay attention to things around you. It could be that feeling you have buried that’s telling you that you have forgotten to even look in the presence of God is. Whatever it is, pay attention; it might be the one thing reminding you that the greatest obstacle to the presence of God in your life is your own restless self.


God, make us still in your presence: to see you and to know you in the fullness of Jesus Christ. Amen.