Here’s what I love about this chapter: it proves that God is not a manipulator. He’s not a control freak. He doesn’t stack His own deck. How do I know that? The story of Balaam shows just how few options God really had for "prophets." Prophets are the people who are supposed to be in tune with God, the ones who will listen to Him. And what do we find in Numbers 22? A donkey was more attuned to God’s presence than Balaam: "When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road." (vs 23)
When it came to the question of having open eyes to see and perceive God in the world, the donkey beat Balaam hands down. That’s stunning! How far must things have fallen in the world when — as between a man and an animal — it was the animal who was aware of God’s presence? If God was a manipulator or a control freak, this would never happen. He would make sure He had representatives on the ground who would do what He said when He said, without question.
The other thing I love about this chapter is the stark contrast between Balaam’s actions and God’s actions. Notice this: "When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, 'What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?' Balaam answered the donkey, 'You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.'" (vs 27-29)
Balaam was angry because the donkey was not doing what he wanted it to do. And so he beat it. If he’d had access to a sword, he would have killed it. How interesting, then, to discover that there was someone in the story who had a sword! "Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown. 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.'" (vs 31-32)
The Lord must have been upset because Balaam was not doing what He wanted. Yet God didn’t resort to violence in order to manipulate Balaam’s behavior. On the contrary, He interacted with Balaam on his level, got his attention, and took the opportunity to communicate. He didn’t force Balaam or manipulate him. He took what He had and worked with it.
God doesn’t force us to be what He wants. He works with what we bring to Him without manipulation and coercion. He doesn’t stack the deck in His favor. He uses what is available to Him in a way that will stack the deck in our favor!