(Written years ago, because God knew in this week of travel I would need a story to share today.)
God showed himself this morning, when I least expected it—in the middle of Caleb’s routine worship time. It has happened before, yet glimpsing God anew is like a surprise gift wrapped in warm love tones.
Some mornings, our worships are heady with rhythm sticks beating out Caleb’s energetic praise on a hassock drum. Sometimes they are creative drama: “Let’s pretend I’m Jesus on the cross. And put me in the grave too.” Most often they are an uncreative repetition of songs, story, and prayer. How easily toddler level worships can become routine and stale, offering little to feed a busy parent’s hungry soul.
However, this morning, God appeared right in the middle of the Balaam story. It is an unusual story, one I had never told him, about the man whose donkey talked. I thought he would be intrigued.
We moved along through the money-laden requests for this prophet to curse God’s people, then that same prophet’s two inquires to God as to whether he should go, the two “no” answers, and his deliberate disobedience to go anyway (based, I assume, on his greed). I told this all to Caleb and marveled that God even took the time to give Balaam the obvious answer.
Next, I recited how Balaam’s donkey gave him trouble, went off the road, crushed his foot, and finally refused to go another step. Three times the donkey saw an angel with a flaming sword. Three times God used the donkey to save him from that sword. And then, mercy of mercies, God actually allowed Balaam to see the angel, talk with him, and receive an explanation.
It was there, in mid-sentence, that God revealed His love and forbearance. He handed me the gift of Himself.
I ended the story. We had prayer. We got busy. Yet, all day, from bread baking to bath taking, God’s warmth wrapped me in faith and assurance as I meditated on how He treats the deliberately disobedient.
What a God I saw. What beauty! What joy! What longing to serve Him swelled inside.
This was not a mere story about a man and his donkey. This was a story about God.
Just like “Jonah and the Whale” is not about Jonah or the whale. It is about a God who used an obedient whale because he wanted to save and soften another prophet’s disobedient heart. In fact, it is true of all Bible stories. They are not stories about people. They are stories about God.
Remembering it that way, I can repeat simple Bible stories forever.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your strength. These commands that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” — Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (NIV)