Actually, Balaam’s Ass Was Right

Balaam’s ass was a hero that deserves more press. (You can read the story of Balaam’s ass here.) She was afraid when she needed to be afraid. And she did what she could to obey God.

Balaam’s ass became particularly precious to me about fifteen years ago. I had been invited to an exclusive dinner party. One of the other guests was a distinguished biographer, editor, and publisher of religious books from England.

Being only six of us at the dinner, the distinguished publisher and I quickly fell into conversation. I spoke to him about my work on a historical novel set in England during the Reformation.

The distinguished publisher was stoic until I mentioned that the distinguished Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper had been led to Jesus while reading a novel by a woman.

“God also spoke through Balaam’s ass,” he said, and left the room.

Our conversation was over.

I don’t know if the distinguished publisher was trying to call me a donkey. (I had not been trying to pitch my novel. I was well aware that the distinguished guest from England did not publish works of fiction. How could he when “truth” was central to his publishing house’s name?) But the moment the distinguished publisher walked from our conversation; I had a new appreciation for Balaam’s ass.

The ass had seen the angel of the LORD in the way. Balaam had not.

The ass had her mouth opened by none other than the LORD. Balaam had opened his own mouth in ignorance.

The ass had tried to save the life of the one who beat him. Balaam had beaten the innocent to try to save his position of power with wicked people.

The ass had been right before the LORD. Balaam had been a donkey.

It’s always better to be a Balaam’s ass than a distinguished individual going the wrong way.

Photo credit: “A portrait of a donkey” by H. Silenus via Flickr.