Thursday, 20 May 2010

Balaam’s Donkey – Telling the truth – Relationships - KS 1 & 2

This is a story from the Old Testament of the Bible, from the time of Moses.

Who can tell me anything about Moses?

The people of Israel had been slaves in Egypt a long way from their home for many years. But then Moses had led them out of Egypt, making the Egyptian king, the Pharaoh, let them go.

But to get home they had to go on a long journey across the desert. It was very difficult. They didn’t have anywhere to stay. They couldn’t grow their own crops to eat. They didn’t know where they would find water. But as they travelled, God helped them. He gave them food to eat and water to drink.

After years and years of travelling, they finally got near the land God had promised they could settle in. But to get there they had to go across land that belonged to another nation, and the king of that nation was very worried. “Look at all these Israelites!” he said. “What a crowd” Just imagine if they all decided to gang up on us. Just imagine if they decided to stop in our land and settle here. We’d have no chance against them. We’d be swamped! What can we do?”

Then he had an idea. “We can’t fight them – there are too many of them – but I could ask a magician to put a spell on them, to curse them and make them go away.” As it happened he knew of a magician – the best there was – a man called Balaam. “Send for Balaam,” he ordered. “Make him come and curse the Israelites.”

Off went his messengers to fetch Balaam. “You’ve got to come,” they said. “It’s the king’s orders! And he’ll pay you a lot of money!” But Balaam wasn’t sure. “Stay the night, and I will give you my answer in the morning.”

But that night, Balaam heard God talking to him. . “Don’t go” said God. “These Israelites are my people. I rescued them from Egypt, and I am going to give them their own land. If I have blessed them, there’s no point you trying to curse them. You can’t say they are bad when I have said they are good”.
But in the morning, when Balaam tried to tell the messengers that he wouldn’t go, they were having none of it. “You’ve got to come – the king says so – and anyway he will pay you any money you ask.” And Balaam thought to himself that perhaps he could just tell the king what the king wanted to hear, even if it wasn’t the truth, perhaps no one would realise that.

So Balaam set off to find the king and to curse the Israelites. There were no cars or buses or trains then, but Balaam had a donkey that he used to ride when he wanted to travel. So he saddled up the donkey and got on its back. They set off towards the place where the king was. For a while the donkey trotted along the path but then, all of a sudden, the donkey looked up and there, right in front of it was a huge, fierce looking angel. Balaam couldn’t see the angel, but the donkey could. The donkey wasn’t going anywhere near this great fierce thing. He veered off the path into the field next to it. Balaam got off the donkey and tried shouting at it, geeing it up, hitting it to make it go, but the donkey wouldn’t budge until the angel eventually vanished.

On they went, but they hadn’t got far before once again, there was the angel, standing right in the donkey’s path. This time the donkey couldn’t get off the path because there were walls on either side, so he just stopped still. “Come on donkey” said Balaam “get a move on!”. He hadn’t seen the angel. But the donkey wouldn’t move. He leaned against the wall, trying to hide, but all he managed to do was squash Balaam’s leg against the wall. Balaam was really cross, but there was nothing he could do. The donkey wouldn’t move until once again the angel disappeared.
The donkey went on a bit further, but then, there was the angel again. This time the donkey had had enough. It just sat down. Balaam was furious. He found a stick and started hitting the donkey. But the donkey just looked at him, and opened its mouth and spoke. Now, you don’t expect donkeys to talk to you, but this one did. “Balaam,” it said, “haven’t I always been a good donkey?” “Yes” said Balaam. “So,” said the donkey, “if I am disobeying you, don’t you think there might be a good reason…?” And just at that moment it was as if Balaam’s eyes were open for the first time. Suddenly he saw the angel too, barring the way.
The angel spoke. “Balaam, God told you not to come. You can’t put a bad spell on people he has blessed. You can’t say they are bad when God says they are good. That isn’t the truth. The donkey knew that, but you wouldn’t listen. Now, go to the king and tell him the truth, not what he wants to hear, but what is true.”
So Balaam realised his mistake and he went to the king, and told him the truth. He wouldn’t curse the Israelites, because they were God’s people. He wouldn’t pretend they were bad when they were actually good.

· In that story Balaam wanted to tell the king what he wanted to hear. It took a donkey to make him see that he couldn’t tell a lie. I wonder if you’ve ever said something that wasn’t true to someone. Perhaps you told them what they wanted to hear. Perhaps it was something you wanted to be true – you boasted about something you’d done or something you had – because you wanted to impress them. In the end though, this story tells us that it is always better to be honest, not to pretend, but to be yourself.

Let’s be silent for a bit so we can think about that story, and about how important it is to tell the truth. I’ll finish with a prayer.

· Prayer that God will help us to be truthful with ourselves, and with one another.

1 comment:

  1. I believe that your interpretation of this passage is inconsistent with Scripture. You claim that Balaam went to Moab even though God told him not to. However, in Numbers 22:12, God first tells Balaam that he cannot go and in Numbers 22:13, Balaam refuses to go. In Numbers 22:13-14, the Bible says, "So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balak, 'Go to your own land, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you.' So the princes of Moab rose and went to Balak and said, "'Balaam refuses to come with us.'" Here, God said not to go, and Balaam did not go.

    In Numbers 22:15, Balak sent more princes, and in Numbers 22:18, the passage reads, "But Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, 'Though Balak were to give me his house of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the Lord my God to do less or more. So you, too, please stay here tonight, that I may know what more the Lord will say to me.'" God tells Balaam that evening, "If the men have come to call you, rise, go with them; but only do what I tell you." (Numbers 22:20) This time God tells Balaam to go, and Balaam goes. At no point in the story does Balaam do other than what God had asked him to do, and at no point do we see the messengers "having none of it" as you say.

    I also recommend that you mention that the angel threatened to kill Balaam and was holding a drawn sword. I believe that this detail is critical to understanding the interaction between Balaam and the angel, and that children will get an inaccurate view of the God of the Bible if they are not given such details.

    I invite you to check out my blog, where I have written an essay on this passage. Thanks!