If I can be completely honest, I struggle with the Old Testament. Somewhere mid-Genesis I found myself alternately appalled and bored. Currently I am reading the Book of Numbers. Come to find out, it literally is a book full of numbers. Imagine that! The book includes detailed census counts of the Israelites as they wandered the desert.
Last night I was feeling especially down in the dumps, and decided to continue my reading. Admittedly, I wasn't excited about more OT numbers, details, and blood, but I was still searching for some kind of comfort. I began reading at Numbers 22. The chapter recounts the story of a man named Balaam who the Midianites try to entice into cursing the people of Israel. God commands Balaam that he must not curse the people of Israel, because they are a blessed people. Anyway, the part of the story that struck me was Balaam and his donkey. Balaam started down a path that was contrary to what the Lord had commanded, so the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. (Numbers 22:22) Balaam's donkey was able to see the angel of the Lord, but Balaam was not, so the donkey kept doing whatever she could to avoid going further down the path. Because Balaam could not see that the path was blocked by the angel of the Lord, he continued to beat his donkey for her disobedience. Finally, the Lord gave the donkey the power to speak, and she laid quite a guilt trip on her master. The Lord then opened Balaam's eyes and he was able to see the the angel of the Lord.
The angel of the Lord asked him, "Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her." Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, "I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road of oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back." - Numbers 22:32-34 (NIV)
Why did this story strike me? It is very easy to follow what I want. It isn't always so easy to see the Lord opposing my choices. I think sometimes I am a bit like Balaam, following a path that I think is the best, when all the while the Lord is standing in opposition. It is easy to lash out and place blame on the things around me that I feel like are causing me problems, like Balaam lashing out on his donkey, when those things may simply be placed there as intentional stumbling blocks meant to hinder my progress down the wrong path. Perhaps the things that I see as standing in my way are actually things that guard me from utter disaster. I just find it unfortunate that I don't have a talking donkey to tell me so.