Don’t Be a Donkey’s Donkey

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May 1, 2018

2 Peter 2:10-16 (NLT)

10 He is especially hard on those who follow their own twisted sexual desire, and who despise authority.These people are proud and arrogant, daring even to scoff at supernatural beings without so much as trembling. 11 But the angels, who are far greater in power and strength, do not dare to bring from the Lord a charge of blasphemy against those supernatural beings.12 These false teachers are like unthinking animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed. They scoff at things they do not understand, and like animals, they will be destroyed. 13 Their destruction is their reward for the harm they have done. They love to indulge in evil pleasures in broad daylight. They are a disgrace and a stain among you. They delight in deception even as they eat with you in your fellowship meals. 14 They commit adultery with their eyes, and their desire for sin is never satisfied. They lure unstable people into sin, and they are well trained in greed. They live under God’s curse. 15 They have wandered off the right road and followed the footsteps of Balaam son of Beor, who loved to earn money by doing wrong. 16 But Balaam was stopped from his mad course when his donkey rebuked him with a human voice.

CONSIDER THIS

We’re a family-friendly post, so today we’re going to keep it Rated PG. In today’s text, Peter keeps railing against false teachers, their idolatry and greed leading to the sin of broken sexuality. We’ve covered it, and so won’t go over what he’s saying today again, except to say that it must be a pretty serious and upsetting thing for Peter if he keeps going on about it. 

Today let’s jump to where he’s going with this: The story of Balaam and his donkey. In Numbers 22 we meet the prophet Balaam, where a foreign king is trying to pay him off to speak a curse over God’s people. Long story short, on the way there an angel tries to block Balaam’s way, but only his donkey sees it. The donkey tries to bolt another direction, and Balaam turns into well, a donkey (like we said, we’re keeping it PG here).

As my grandfather would say, Balaam beats the tar out his donkey. Two more times the angel tries to block their path, two more times the donkey tries to avoid it, and two more times Balaam beats the tar out of his ride. 

Finally, God (and probably the donkey) had enough: Then the Lord gave the donkey the ability to speak. “What have I done to you that deserves your beating me three times?” it asked Balaam. 

“Because You have made me look like a fool!” Balaam shouted. “If I had a sword with me, I would kill you!” 

“But I am the same donkey you have ridden all your life,” the donkey answered. “Have I ever done anything like this before?”

“No,” Balaam admitted.

Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the roadway with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bowed his head and fell face down on the ground before him. (Numbers 22:28-31)

Then the angel lets Balaam know that he was ready to kill Balaam and spare his donkey, and Balaam responds, “I have sinned.” (Numbers 22:34).

What a great story. Beyond the fact that God spoke through a donkey (which means he can speak through any of us), what is really important here is that Balaam had a call from God, but was on his way to being a false teacher motivated by greed. 

Notice what Peter says earlier in today’s text: These false teachers are like unthinking animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed. They scoff at things they do not understand, and like animals, they will be destroyed. (v. 12)

It wasn’t the donkey who was stubborn, but Balaam who had become an unthinking… donkey. Balaam’s greed was leading him to curse God’s people before the angel and the donkey intervened. 

And here’s the real kick in the donkey: Peter is telling this story as an in-house critique. None of what Peter has written up to this point has been about the pagan, the atheist, or the lost. It has been about the believer who has taken a role of leadership, but whose life has become false because of idolatry and greed that leads to broken sexuality. 

And remember yesterday we talked about broken sexuality as the manifestation of broken identity, and living out of broken identity leads to violence in all its forms. Tomorrow we’ll see that that is exactly what false teachers do: bring a curse on other believers. 

Until then, let’s sit with the tension Peter gives us. Remember this is a warning for us, because any one of us can be like these false teachers who, “wandered off the right road and followed the footsteps of Balaam.” (v.15)

In other words, may we not become so stubborn in greed that we become a donkey’s donkey.

THE PRAYER

Heavenly Father, it is easy for me to look at today’s text and say, “That is them, not me.” But I am just as prone to wander off. Please keep me on the right road, even if I’m not aware of it. In Jesus name. Amen.

THE QUESTION

Before today did you see Peter’s criticisms and warnings as an in-house critique? Does that change the content of his letter for you? How so? What is the Holy Spirit possibility for you in that revelation? 

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Omar Rikabi is a United Methodist Pastor serving in North Texas. When not telling stories, Omar likes to watch movies with his wife Jennifer, read books with his three daughters, and work in the kitchen cooking and grilling for family and friends. You follow him on Twitter @omarrikabi or visit his blog omarrikabi.com

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