I wonder how many of you have ever read the story in the book of Numbers about Balak and Balaam. I know that I had never heard of it till last night. It is interesting what you can find when you read the Bible all the way through. Here is a summary of the story:
The Israelites were about to fight the Moabites. The King of Moab, Balak, was afraid that the Israelites would be hard to defeat, so he called on his seer Balaam to curse the Israelites. However, he could not because God prevented him; Balaam replied to Balak by way of Moabite princes that he could not do anything other than what God wanted him to do. "Even if Balak gave me his palace filled with silver and gold, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God" (Numbers 22:18).
The next morning, however, Balaam changed his mind and decided to return to Balak with the Moabite princes. God placed obstacles in Balaam's way so that his donkey refused to stay on path. No matter how many times Balaam whipped his donkey, it refused to listen to him. Finally, the donkey spoke and said, "Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?" (Numbers 22:30). Balaam realized that it was God who was trying to get his attention. When the angel of the Lord finally spoke, Balaam fell to the floor and prostrated himself to the Lord. The angel of the Lord rebuked him for not interpreting his donkey's reactions as a sign from the Lord.
"Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, 'I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.' The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, 'Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.' So Balaam went with the princes of Balak" (Numbers 22:32-35). When Balaam returned to Balak he prophesied that the Israelites would crush the Moabites.
Does the story sound familiar? Compare Balaam's conversion to Paul's conversion:
"As [Paul] neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?'
'Who are you Lord?' Saul asked.
'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' he replied. 'Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.' " (Acts 9:3-6).