Advent 2022: Wed 21 Dec

Numbers 22:21-31

Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 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.

Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat the donkey again.

Then the angel of the Lord moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. 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 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 face down.

Balaam is blind to the presence of an angel. For some reason God is angry with him, and he had sent an angel to turn Balaam back from the mission he’d given him. No, it doesn’t seem to make complete sense.

Only Balaam’s donkey can see the form in front of them. The angel stands in the way to block the route, wielding a sword. The donkey suffers at the hand of Balaam for refusing to move forward. It is prepared to put up with beatings from Balaam in preference to being slain by the angel. It tells him so in plain words (I left out that passage).

Balaam was not allowed to see the angel until now. While the angel is a spiritual being, it can still appear to move about on the ground, and this one can hold and wield a sword. The angels who visited Abraham appeared as flesh and blood and were content to eat with him. There are no fixed rules when it comes to angels.

Did Balaam’s opened eyes see a form he recognised as an angel? If he did or he didn’t, he saw fit, or was compelled, to fall down on his face before it. It would have been dazzling to behold. Remember how Moses looked to others after being in the presence of God to receive the Ten Commandments. Angels may not always tone themselves down when appearing to humans.

Terrifying beauty.

How do you imagine the angel appeared?

Did Balaam’s eyes not see it, or was the image held from him?

Father God, dare I pray that you will open my eyes to see your angels at work in my life and my world? I do. Amen.

Balaam and the angel