Life's Little Interruptions

It is easy to become impatient and upset with the things and people that get in the way of what we are trying to accomplish. We should learn a lesson from Balaam.

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Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Balak (בלק | Balak)
  • Torah: Numbers 22:2-25:9
  • Haftarah: Micah 5:6-6:8
  • Gospel: Matthew 21:1-11

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Numbers 22:1 | Balak Summons Balaam to Curse Israel
    • Numbers 22:22 | Balaam, the Donkey, and the Angel
    • Numbers 22:41 | Balaam's First Oracle
    • Numbers 23:13 | Balaam's Second Oracle
    • Numbers 24:1 | Balaam's Third Oracle
    • Numbers 24:15 | Balaam's Fourth Oracle
    • Numbers 25:1 | Worship of Baal of Peor
  • Prophets
    • Mic 5:2 | The Ruler from Bethlehem
    • Mic 5:7 | The Future Role of the Remnant
    • Mic 6:1 | God Challenges Israel
    • Mic 6:6 | What God Requires

Portion Summary

Balak (Balak, בלק) was the name of a Moabite king in the days of Moses. It is also the name of the fortieth reading from the Torah. It comes from the second verse of this week's reading, which says, "Now Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites" (Numbers 22:2). This week's Torah reading tells the story of how Balak hires the occult prophet Balaam to lay a curse on Israel. Balaam meets resistance from God, has a conversation with his donkey and ends up blessing Israel instead of cursing them.

The angel of the LORD appeared on the road with a drawn sword to stop him. To Balaam the angel was invisible, but the donkey on which Balaam was riding could see the angel.

To avoid the angel with the drawn sword, the donkey veered from the road into a field. Irritated with his steed, Balaam struck the donkey to force her back onto the road.

A second time the angel appeared in front of the donkey. Balaam still did not see it, but the donkey did. This time the donkey was carrying Balaam through a narrow street between two vineyard walls. There was not much room between the walls. To avoid the angel, the donkey pressed against one wall, crushing Balaam's foot in the process.

Irritated and in significant pain, Balaam struck the donkey again.

A third time the angel appeared in front of the donkey. This time the way was so narrow that there was no room for the donkey to turn to the left or the right. So the donkey lay down. Still unable to see the angel, Balaam was so angry that he thrashed the poor beast with a stick.

In his blindness, Balaam did not realize that the irritating behavior of his donkey was actually saving his life. The LORD said, "If she had not turned aside from me, I would surely have killed you just now, and let her live" (Numbers 22:33).

Life is full of irritating obstacles that get in the way of our plans. Throughout any given day, a person experiences countless distractions and complications. It is easy to become impatient and upset with the things and people that get in the way of what we are trying to accomplish. We should learn a lesson from Balaam. Those irritating obstacles might be from the LORD. God may have other plans for us. Rather than get upset when our plans are derailed, we should seek the LORD's direction. In Balaam's life, God was in the midst of the interruptions. The next time the car breaks down or the flight is canceled or some other unforeseen interruption rears up, rather than get irritated, remember the story of Balaam.

People of faith sometimes speak of God opening and closing doors. This is an idiom that refers to God's divine direction in life. For example, suppose a person set out to take a job in a certain field. He submitted an application for a position for which he was fully qualified. He was confident that the job would be his. Inexplicably, he did not get the position. A person like Balaam would become bitter over the disappointment. A person of faith would say, "God closed that door. He knows what is best. I will look elsewhere."

When seeking direction in life, a person needs to keep an eye on the donkey to see what God might be saying.

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