The Price for Spiritual Maturity

21 And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.

22 And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.

23 And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way.

24 But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side.

25 And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall: and he smote her again.

26 And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.

27 And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.

28 And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?

29 And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.

30 And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay.

31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.

32 And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me:

33 And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive. Num. 22:21-33

Now, what in Hades was this donkey thinking, trying the patience of this great, anointed man of God? Apparently – and luckily for her – the prophet’s bodyguards were not armed, otherwise this particular donkey would have been shot immediately.

But Balaam was a blind prophet. Now, mind, he was a prophet all right, and he could prophesy all that the Lord told him to. But on another even more important level, he was blind. There are many great servants of God who will forfeit their due heavenly reward simply because they were blind to what God wanted to do in their lives.

Spiritual blindness made Balaam not to realize what his ass was doing. For, far from intending evil upon his master, we find out later that the donkey was instead focused on saving him!

I heard the true story of an airplane passenger who kept grumbling about this and that on the plane. When the plane hit a violent turbulence at a high attitude the stewardess approached the man, handed him his seatbelt and asked him to fasten it. The man threw off the belt in anger, let off some steam on the stewardess and stayed put, belt-less. Suddenly, a side door near him blew open with a loud explosion, and this man was instantly sucked out from his seat by the air pressure, never to be seen again.

When we are not seeing in the Spirit, we lash out at the circumstances that seem to come against us. That was what Balaam – and this airplane passenger – did. They did not know that the very circumstances that seemed to chafe them the wrong way were actually set by God to save them. The angel told Balaam:

“… the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive” (vs. 32-33)

That is us. Much of the time we impatiently rush at situations, and there die. We rage and huff and attack the very situation that has come to deal with our carnal nature. But the very situations that were contrary to us in the eyes of our flesh are more likely than not the situations that are working for our spiritual good. Had Balaam known this, he would not have struck his donkey. But because his ways were “perverse” before the Lord, he was spiritually blind, and he could not see in the Spirit.

God is in control of everything. He it is who allows every situation into our lives. Even if a sword were to be raised against us, still God would be in perfect control of that situation.

Whenever I find myself displeased at any situation, I have come to know that it is not the situation that is not right, but it is my heart that is. At that particular moment, I always know that something is not right in my heart. God was in that difficult situation, trying to save me spiritually; but my hard and rebellious heart “kicked against the pricks”, as it were (Acts 9:5).

That is why the gospel is all about obedience. Now, you cannot obey if you have a rebellious heart, can you? That is why we need humble hearts, that we might allow God to craft His handiwork in us and make us true sons and daughters in the Spirit through the cross.

[Below: God wants to form us into mature sons and daughters in the Spirit]

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