Directions from Donkeys

Donkeys were seemingly everywhere in biblical times. These strong little beasts of burden show up in Scripture in some unforgettable ways doing some unbelievable things, and they have a way of speaking to us and teaching us. We can learn from these little animals and the way God presents them in His Word. They are not just little horses. They are unique unto themselves and when I see donkeys I often think of that verse in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that says, “He hath made everything beautiful in his time.” I know that is true of many of us, but it is also true of these little animals.

While the landscape around us is not as filled with donkeys as it was in biblical times, I still run into donkeys every now and then. One of our churches at which I have had the privilege of preaching numerous times through the years – this has never failed when I get there – has several donkeys in a nearby pasture that seem to form a welcome committee and start braying so loud you could hear them several miles away. I’ve wondered if they do everyone that way and extend a warm invitation to the community and the church, or if they just see me and think, “Look! One of our distant cousins is going to be preaching today.” Regardless, I always stop and take note of them and am amazed at how loud their braying can be. I was recently there and saw these distant relatives several times and every time they were in great voice. It got me to thinking about some of the times that donkeys are found in the Bible and the way God used them and can use them to speak to us about what the Lord would have us to do and be. Just walk with me through three of these biblical presentations, and I think you’ll see what I’m talking about.

In Numbers 22, Balaam is instructed by God not to go with the princes of Moab and put a curse on the people of God. Balaam got up early in the morning and saddled his donkey and off he went. It was not an easy ride or a good ride because he was going against the will of God and after some unfortunate experiences, Numbers 22:28 says the Lord opened the mouth of Balaam’s donkey and she began to speak. It is amazing how God could cause the voice box of a little donkey to begin to vibrate in such ways that God could speak through her to a rebellious prophet. God can always get our attention, but we may shrug it aside and dismiss it and not believe that the Lord wants to speak to us. He still can get our attention, and so the little donkey spoke. In this case, it was a warning to Balaam that he shouldn’t be going the direction he was going and shouldn’t be doing what he was doing.

In all reality, probably every one of us can say, “I’ve been there.” Not to hear a donkey speak, but to see the hand of God and hear the voice of God telling us, “Don’t go there. Do go here.” In that same way, even today, God can use a thousand different things — even a donkey — to speak to us. It may be that God is speaking to you about some adversities that are taking place in your life. Maybe an illness, maybe difficulty in your job, maybe the consequences of a wrong decision that are coming up before you, maybe a car accident or just a flat tire. It’s not that it was cataclysmic, but it was attention-getting when God was trying to tell Balaam, “You’re going the wrong way.” Today, let the Lord speak to your heart. Whatever it is that He’s using around you, pay attention. Donkeys can tell us.

The second incident to which I would point I would characterize as donkeys testing us. The reason I say that is because the person involved in this story is being tested by some donkeys. The incident takes place in 1 Samuel 9:3 when Saul, the son of Kish, is sent by his father to do a task. Kish sends his son to find the donkeys that had gotten out and were roaming around the neighborhood and across the landscape. Saul takes a servant and they go looking for the donkeys. Get this: Here is the soon-to-be-anointed King of Israel and he’s chasing donkeys. When I say donkeys test us, Saul and the servant were having a difficult time finding these animals roaming around the countryside. Two things become apparent that are realities that need to be shown in each of our lives. The first one is to be obedient, to do what you’re asked to do, even in the small things. Jesus taught us that if we would be faithful over small things, He would make us ruler over big things (Matt. 25:23), but sometimes we fail that test.

I suppose chasing donkeys is beneath just about everyone, but Saul did what his father asked him to do. There were points along the way where he could have stopped. There’s where the test becomes even more significant, and that is to stay faithful. Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Don’t stop. Stay faithful. Stay faithful to the Lord. Stay faithful to what He has assigned you to do as Saul did with his earthly father. It was out of Saul’s faithfulness in chasing those donkeys that he came in contact with the man of God, Samuel. In 1 Samuel 10, Samuel anoints Saul to be king. So many people — I suppose all of us — miss out on the great blessings of God when we don’t follow through and are not faithful to the end. Just remember that donkeys, cast here as inconvenient difficulties of life, test us.

The third incident is found in the New Testament and I just point out that donkeys transport us. In Matthew 21:2, Jesus tells His disciples to go and get a donkey. It will be the little animal on which Jesus will ride into Jerusalem on what we refer to as Palm Sunday, the triumphant entry, the welcome to the last week of His life. It is just a little donkey and seems so insignificant, but is actually part of the prophecy that Jesus, the King of Glory, would come riding on a small little donkey (Zechariah 9:9). Jesus could have walked in to the city or if God had so chosen, He could have had a beautiful black stallion or a great white charger — but no, it was a simple, common, little donkey. That donkey was the vehicle that brought Jesus in to be seen and acclaimed and praised, but it also brought Him to the series of decisions of the last week that led Him to the cross. A donkey transported Jesus to the events that would provide salvation and redemption for each one of us.

The task of that little donkey was no small thing, but there are times when God has wanted to use you to be the one who would transport the love of Jesus, the message of Christ, the hope for someone with whom you would come in contact. What He wants you to do is to be faithful. You can be God’s redemptive, connecting element and transport the message from the Sunday School class and the preaching service, from your devotional time, from reading an article in The Baptist Record, to share Christ’s love with somebody to whom God is leading you. Let God take the directions He gave to donkeys and put it into each of our lives that we might honor Him even as these donkeys did.

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Jim Futral

Executive Director-Treasurer