Are You Listening to God?
"You do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish." (John 11:49-51 RSV)

It is curious, is it not, that Caiaphas, one of the villains of the passion story, should make this profoundly truthful statement about what they were about to do. In fact John, the apostle who recorded this incident, remarked, "He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation." (John 11:50-51 RSV)

Indeed Jesus was to die for that nation - and all the world. The high priest was exactly correct in spite of himself, and it illustrates for you and me a significant lesson in how God sometimes has to reach us.

It is not always through the godly that God proclaims his message. Jesus once said that if those who claimed to be his followers refused to cry out, then the rocks would do so. Paul said that some were proclaiming Christ out of envy and strife (Philippians 1:15-20), but he rejoiced because in any case the gospel was being preached.

When Israel was on its way to the Promised Land, a corrupt prophet named Balaam, at the hire of a pagan king, attempted to curse the nation of Israel. But every time he opened his mouth to prophesy, he pronounced on them a blessing along with true prophecies about the greatness that God's chosen nation was to have. The prophecy was true even though the prophet was false. Although Balaam prophesied correctly, his heart was thoroughly corrupt as the witness of his life shows. In fact just before this he was in the middle of a rather strange event that is in a sense a metaphor for Balaam's own life.

The incident is in Numbers 22. Balaam is on the road to Moab, hoping to curse Israel in exchange for a fee from the king of that nation. But the Angel of the Lord meets him on the way, and although Balaam doesn't see the Angel, his donkey does and veers off the road, crushing Balaam's foot against a retaining wall, and otherwise refusing to go forward. Balaam lashes out at his donkey with his staff, at which time the donkey through a miracle rebukes him with a man's voice. "What have I done to you that you have struck me these three times? Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden ever since I became yours to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?"

It has always struck me as odd that Balaam did not act surprised when a dumb beast spoke to him. But Balaam was a sorcerer and as such had probably himself conjured up spirits that would communicate through animals. That sort of sorcery is still around today. But this time was different, for the words that were spoken were meant to save his life.

God will communicate to us through any source that he needs to in order to get our attention, whether it be through a corrupt high priest or false prophet. Please pardon this crass way of saying it, but God is perfectly capable of making his will known even if it is through the voice of a dumb ass. Someone you may characterize as such just might have something you need to hear, although it seems to me from the examples we have seen, that God uses that route only if we won't listen to more noble sources. If someone of that nature gives you a word of wisdom, it is good to take it, but also to search your heart that maybe God couldn't reach you in any other way.

Lenny C.

Excerpted from The Sabbath Morning Companion, Friday April 30, 2004 by Lenny Cacchio. All rights reserved.