by Joel Lawler
On the first Saturday of every month at noon a siren goes off in my town. They are testing the system. I have heard these sirens many times when it was not a test. They warn of tornados or severe storms. My house is pretty close to one of the towers. It is impossible not to hear it.
We live in a time where our days are full of sirens vying for our attention. Advertisements are everywhere screaming at us to buy the product that they are selling.
It is easy to become numb. It is natural to want to create filters so as to not hear all the noise. No one can possibly process all the information that is being poured on them. It comes at such a fast pace and quantity that the competition drives producers to go to more extremes so as to get our attention.
The problem is that what if our attention is needed and we miss the siren?
In our numb / filtered state, we are at risk of ignoring a message that we need to hear.
When I was in my second year of college, I saw a flyer for a dorm meeting. I had already been there for a year. I knew everything I needed to know. I decided that message was something that I could ignore. At the meeting, the dorm parents announced that they were cleaning out the storage room and everything that was not claimed would be thrown away. I had a chest in storage. In the chest was a coat my mother had bought me for Christmas. She had picked it out for me and it was something that I treasured. It was thrown out with all the other unclaimed storage items.
Balaam was a prophet. He had the ability to pronounce blessings and curses. His words carried a lot of weight and people valued what he said.
During the time he lived, the Israeli army was on the move. They had defeated two kingdoms and were on their way to attacking a third called Moab. The king of this kingdom was named Balak.
Balak decided that he would be proactive and pay Balaam to curse the Israelis.
God tells Balaam that he is not to go and not to curse Israel.
The message was very clear.
Balaam was greedy and wanted the money the king was offering him. He decided to go.
Balaam got on his donkey, and went to meet up with Balak. This made God angry. God placed an angel in the road to block his way. Balaam was riding his donkey. When the donkey saw the angel blocking the road and brandishing a sword, the donkey went off the road into the ditch. Balaam was enraged by his animal. He beat the donkey. He then got back on the donkey and began his trip again.
As they were going through a vineyard, there was a fence on both sides of the road, the donkey again saw God's angel blocking the way and ran into the fence, crushing Balaam's foot against the fence. Balaam lost his temper again and beat the donkey mercilessly.
The angel stood in their way again--a very narrow passage this time; there was no getting through on the right or left. Seeing the angel, Balaam's donkey dropped to the ground. Balaam became so frustrated that he found a stick and beat the donkey a third time.
God gave the donkey the ability to speak.
Balaam was ignoring the messages and needed something extraordinary to get his attention.
The donkey asked him "What have I ever done to you that you have beat me three times?"
Balaam seemed to hardly notice what had just happened, and retorted, "You have made me so angry that I would kill you if you had a sword."
God opened Balaam's eyes to see the angel that was holding a sword. Balaam fell to the ground, his face in the dirt.