Sometimes, God Speaks Through Your Ass

by Brad Harmon on December 1, 2010 in Leadership

Sometimes, God Speaks Through Your Ass | marketplace christianity

Photo Courtesy of Flickr/massdistraction

The other day I walked into the living room and my wife and son were watching the movie Shrek.  The movie was at the scene where Donkey had just accidentally been sprinkled with fairy dust.  Thinking he was about to escape through the air, Donkey starts talking to the amazement of everyone.  This reminded me of a story in the Bible that I doubt most people know is there.

Yes, that’s right.  The Bible has a talking donkey of it’s own.  In Numbers 22, we read the account of how Balaam was saved by his talking ass.  As I thought about this passage, I couldn’t help but think that we all have people in our lives, in our businesses, that we might characterize as an … ummm … well, as an ass.  Should we be paying more attention to them?  Is God speaking to us through them?

When You Should Listen to Your Ass

Donkeys have become known as animals that are not always the easiest to control.  They will refuse to move if they don’t feel like it, and getting them to budge in times like these can take a lot of effort.  They are not above making a scene by bucking and braying to try and break your resolve.

Does this sound like some of the people with whom you work?  It’s easy to see how they earned this moniker, isn’t it?  How do we know when we should be listening to them versus when they are just being obstinate?  Well, let’s look closer at the events that led up to Balaam’s ass speaking.

When We Become Too Impatient or Eager to Wait on God

Balaam was either too impatient, or too eager, to wait on God.  Instead of waiting to see what God would have him do, he decided to get up and go with the men.

20And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do. 21And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab. 22And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. – Numbers 22:20-22

Had Balaam simply waited on the Lord there would have never been a talking donkey in the Bible.  When we are impatient expect God to put some asses in our way to slow us down.  Nobody likes to wait, but it is often God’s response.

When We Can’t See the Danger Facing Us

We all work with, or have someone in our life, that can find the negative in any situation.  While these people can be a pain, there is also value in having someone around you that kicks the tires of your ideas to point out potential flaws.

23And 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. 24But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side. 25And 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. 26And 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. 27And 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. – Numbers 22: 23-27

Neither Balaam, nor his two servants, saw the angel of the LORD standing against them.  Only the ass saw the angel.  God will put naysayers in our way to warn us of dangers we haven’t seen.  Don’t be too quick to dismiss these people.

When They Speak Even at Their Own Peril

How many businesses have failed because there was nobody in the company willing to tell the emperor that he had no clothes?  The number of people who “saw it coming” after such a failure astounds me.  If they really did, then why didn’t they sound the warning bells?  Balaam’s ass spoke out …

28And 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? 29And 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. – Numbers 22:28-29

Balaam had already smote his ass three times, and he was angry with it.  He was so angry that he wanted to kill the ass.  It takes a great amount of conviction and courage to speak out when you know it will likely mean your job.  When someone does, listen to them.  It’s unlikely they’re just being obstinate at this point.

When They Have Been Faithful Servants in the Past

When you’re confronted with these situations ask yourself if this person has been a faithful employee in the past.  Even if they don’t always agree with you, have they been a hard worker acquiescing to your will after their objections have been raised?  Or are they just onary?  The answer will be very revealing.

30And 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. 31Then 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. 32And 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: 33And 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. – Numbers 22:30-33

Balaam’s ass had been a good worker.  Once Balaam realized this, his eyes were opened and he saw the danger.  It turns out that only Balaam was in peril.  I wonder whether the ass knew that?  It wouldn’t surprise me though because faithful servants look out for their master’s well being.

Sometimes, God Speaks Through Your Ass

Notice I started the title of this post with the word sometimes.  Just like there’s danger in always dismissing these people, it’s also unwise to spend too much time listening to them.  There’s a difference between negativity and legitimate sounding of the alarm bells.  As a leader, you have to learn to distinguish between the two.

I hope my observations on this passage are helpful to you in this task.  Have you had a Balaam experience where you were saved from making a mistake in your business?  Perhaps, you learned the hard way and ignored your ass?  I’d love to hear about your experience or to have you share your own observations in the comments below.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Kiesha December 1, 2010 at 11:31 am

I love how you cleverly weaved this post around scripture. It’s amazing how God works to inspire us – who knew such an insights could be spurred by the Donkey from Shrek?
I’ve learned that yes, when God wants, he will speak to you from the most unexpected places and people.
Kiesha recently posted..Your Gifts and Talents could be Making You Money


Brad Harmon December 1, 2010 at 11:59 am

I may have been a little too clever, but we’ll see. I am always amazed at where I find demonstrations of Biblical truths. I do seem to find it in the weirdest places though.
Brad Harmon recently posted..Too Busy Laughing to See God


A. Tatum December 1, 2010 at 11:40 am

Good article. I was not familiar with this story.


Brad Harmon December 1, 2010 at 12:05 pm

It’s truly amazing what you can find in the Bible. I guess I must have read over this a few times in those reading through the Bible programs, but it never sunk in that there’s a talking donkey in the Bible. Isn’t it interesting that Balaam is so mad at the donkey that he isn’t even shocked when it starts talking to him?
Brad Harmon recently posted..Too Busy Laughing to See God


Alison Moore Smith December 1, 2010 at 5:05 pm

The story of Balaam is one of the funniest/oddest scripture stories. Try getting kids to act it out some time. It’s quite a kick. And I love your insights, as usual.

I do have one concern. While I tend to appreciate double entendre, in this case, I really don’t. The image evoked by the post title is just not respectful to me. Use a politician, a celebrity, or an unnamed entity, sure, but images of God used that way make me very uncomfortable.
Alison Moore Smith recently posted..Daily Goal Christmas Advent Calendar


Brad Harmon December 1, 2010 at 6:16 pm

I knew I was pushing the envelope with the post title. I talked it over with my wife and even mulled it over a few days before posting it. In the end, I decided that people would quickly see where I was going once they clicked over. Your point is well taken though, and I won’t be making a habit of writing such provocative titles. I apologize for making you uncomfortable with my “cleverness.”
Brad Harmon recently posted..Too Busy Laughing to See God


Sherri December 2, 2010 at 1:15 pm

What a refreshing, funny, insightful article! Yes, the title is very provocative, but how many people will click on it because of it? Probably those of us that really need to see it – even those who have clicked on it because they were offended. Yes, God is holy and exalted! He is Sovereign, but what an amazing act of love for Him to not be so high and lofty as to speak through the donkey/ass to reach Balaam — or to cloth Himself in flesh and be crucified for our sins. Jesus offended people all the time for the same reasons(He ate with sinners) — Not on purpose, but to make a point and to reach the lost. He was willing to walk in the miry pit to pull us out! Those conditions you outlined, that drove the donkey/ass to “speak” were insightful and help with self examination. We don’t want to drive God to use the ass but I am so thankful that He loves us enought to do so when needed. These people are a pain, and I am sure I may be the donkey to others, but I have learned to really try to listen and observe, rather than just judge.


Brad Harmon December 3, 2010 at 1:13 am

Thanks Sherri. I love your points. I’m not sure this equates to the level of Christ’s actions provoking the Pharisees though. If the title was purely there just for shock purposes to get people to click on the link I don’t know if it would have been worth it to draw people in. I don’t think I did that though. I believe the title is justified by the content of the post.

The word ass is how my KJV Bible translates donkey, and during the time of the translation the same word was used to describe obstinate, cantankerous, and sometimes mean people based on the temperament of a donkey. In that light, I don’t think my observations from the passage were a great leap or inconsistent with the title. There are some Christians who find this use vulgar, but to me the word is apropos and has been used in this manner for hundreds of years in some of our greatest literary works.

It was this that I weighed against while waiting the few days to publish the post. Perhaps what I should have considered (and seen coming) was the more contemporary use of the word to describe part of the human anatomy. In that respect, Alison is right about the imagery being disturbing. Where this post has been disseminated on the web there is also the picture of the donkey which should prevent this association. Twitter is the only place I can think of where this may not be the case.

I realize my response to your comment is overkill, but I just wanted to clarify the double entendre I intended for other readers of this post and comments.
Brad Harmon recently posted..Too Busy Laughing to See God


Sue Miley December 8, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Brad, very creative. I am glad you ended with the caution to only sometimes listen….As a business coach I am often saddened to hear people tell me that they are hesitant to be bold in their business because of so many naysayers. It breaks down the business owner’s confidence. I have found this to be more frequent than the opposite – not listening to wise warnings. But, of course, there are both. Thanks for the interesting post.


Brad Harmon January 10, 2011 at 6:11 pm

There are those in our lives that only have negative things to say or stand in the way of our goals. Psalms 1 shows us the progression of these type of people: 1) they walk in ungodly counsel; 2) then they stop moving and stand in the way of sinners; 3) and finally they sit in the seat of the scornful. This wasn’t the case with Balaam’s donkey, and when he realized this it was then that his eyes were open to the danger before him. We have to be wise enough to discern the difference though.
Brad Harmon recently posted..Christmas Songs that Make Me Think and Cry


Vanessa January 2, 2011 at 10:03 pm

I just found your blog. I think it is wonderfully wise.

Oh how this post gave me a chuckle. God uses words and stories like no other. The ability He has given for us to understand and muse over them, is amazing. Thank you for such a cute post.
Vanessa recently posted..Just Different Enough


Brad Harmon January 10, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Thanks Vanessa. There are so many stories in the Bible where God shows us His sense of humor. Sometimes we miss out on word play or allusions to cultural references of the day because of our English translations or our lack of understanding of Jewish culture. I’m glad that there are others who appreciate this like I do.


Stephanie Campbell June 15, 2011 at 6:44 pm

I love this story! I just found your blog and its great.


Tom Payne December 3, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Hi Brad, I’ve never heard the Balaam story used quite like that! But it worked. You made some great points. My two favorites were the need for patience. Many times our progress in a business situation, or in our Christian walk, is too slow for our liking, but it is all part of a plan we cannot completely see. I also liked the way you cautioned the reader not to always listen to the asses placed in our way. Because sometimes they communicate things of genuine value, while other times they are just braying.


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