Road Trip Sermon Series Week #12 Devotional
August 13, 2018
See below for an audio version of the following devotional.
TEXT: Numbers 22:22-34
Now he (Balaam) was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. The 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. Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. When 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. 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. When 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. Then 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?” Balaam 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!” But 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.”
Then 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. The 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. The 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.” Then 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.”
We wrap up our series of Road Trip stories with a fantastic scene that seems fit for a Disney movie. God rescues the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. He brings them through the wilderness, and after 40 years of wandering, due to their lack of faith, the next generation of Israelites are poised to enter the land God has promised. Word spreads of their victories in battle eventually reaching Balak, the King of Moab. Upon hearing the reports and realizing he is the next in line, Balak summons a soothsayer named Balaam to speak a curse over the Israelites. Balaam is reluctant, but as they negotiate, eventually the price is right and he sets out on his donkey to fulfill his commission. And…well, you heard the rest of the story.
In my message last Sunday, I emphasized the importance of reading this story in context with the story immediately following. That is, the story of Philehas, the first person said to have zeal for the Lord. If we pay attention, we will notice the striking similarities between the story of Balaam and the conversion of another Zealot, Paul the Apostle (see Acts 9).
In each case, God interrupts the journey, and the travelers’ eyes are opened. They experience a transformation which results in a new and redirected life. They return from the journey differently.
I think we can all identify with the traveler who realizes he has been headed in the wrong direction. The question is, “How will we return? How long will we resist God? What will it take to get our attention?”
Saul started the journey as the zealot, determined to stand against the early church which he viewed as a threat to the true religion of Israel. But, he returned as Paul, still zealous, but now wholly committed to the One he had resisted. His eyes were opened to see Jesus as the promised one, sent to fulfill God’s mission. Through his selfless act of radical love on the cross, Jesus makes us right with God, but also calls us to take our own cross and die to our selfish ways. When we do, he makes us a new creation.
Paul left that encounter a new man. Still zealous, but that zeal redirected “…to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil. 3:10-11).
So, as the Road Trip draws to a close, how will you return? Will your encounter with God transform you? Will your life be redirected and will you devote yourself to knowing, following and sharing Jesus with the world?
Lord Jesus, give me eyes to see you and courage to follow you wherever you lead. I want to know you and the transforming power of your resurrection.
- Have you encountered God along the journey this summer? Take time to give God thanks for his presence with you in the journey.
- What area of your life do you find it most difficult to surrender to Jesus? What do you need to surrender, “becoming like Jesus in his death”?
- How might you respond in order to allow the Holy Spirit to transform you? Will you return from the journey differently?