Numbers 22:21-41 (Part 3) – The Blame Game: Beating the Donkey & The Man In the Mirror

Posted: October 12, 2016 in Book of Numbers

Numbers 22:21-41 (Part 3 of 3)

Balaam and His Donkey

The blame game. We see it play out all the time. It was my parent’s fault that I am the way that I am. It was the fact that I grew up in poverty. It was that I had parents who spoiled me too much. It was that I had parents who spoiled me too little. It’s because I am black. It’s because I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. It’s because I did not go to the right schools. You made me do it. I know what I did was wrong but it is not anywhere near as bad as you. You did this so it forced me to do that. Accepting responsibility for our actions is not something that we see too often these days.

 

When my first marriage was headed for its excruciating conclusion between 1987 and 1993, there was drug abuse on the part of my wife which landed her in much legal trouble that I had to get her out of on more than one occasion. There was the constant passing out while taking care of our oldest child. There were the hidden drugs. There was a first visit to a rehab facility where she started an affair and continued it after discharge. There was the break-up for six weeks. There was me being a single parent for the most part. There was the recovery from addiction. There was the transfer of addiction to spending money that we did not have. There was me just tired of all the drama. There was me so angry for the way mire life had turned out by 1991, eleven years into the marriage, that I met a woman who was normal and sane and sexy. I fell for her hard and began an on again off again two year affair that caused my first wife to go off the deep end become a violent, even more spiteful woman. It was so violent and poisonous that my first wife and I split up for good in the Spring of 1993 (our divorce was final in July 1994). Of course, I moved directly into a relationship with the woman I had the affair with and she became my second wife in April 1995. All during this time between 1993-1995, my first wife made it easy for me to justify why I had the affair. She was freaking crazy. My first wife would stalk me. She would come to my office and act insane. She would constantly leave me these voice mails that would make Freddy Krueger cringe. My life was a living hell for several years after the breakup of my first marriage. She accused me of molesting my own child and got DSS involved in our lives for three years.  I could always justify my new path in life with my second wife by my first wife’s actions. She made it easy to blame her for what was going on in my life. Sure, there were actual reasons that any sane person could see that it was best for me to be away from my first wife as she let the pain of our breakup become the central focus of her life as she descended into the insane hatred for me that was the baseline of her life from our breakup in 1993 until her death from a stroke at age 55 in 2015. It was sad to hear of her descent into isolated, reclusiveness enabled by her second husband who was just as reclusive as her (he passed away about one month ago himself). It was a sad end to two bright people who shoved the world away to live in their own little isolated cocoon.

 

For many years after the breakup of my first marriage, I blamed my first wife for all the insanity that became our post-marriage life. She had it in for me and it seemed to be her life’s mission to destroy, denigrate, and punish me. Her hatred for me became her life’s purpose. It destroyed her life and ruined relationships for her and pushed her own kids away as they grew up and out from under her control. It was easy to blame her for the problems of my life after my break up with her. I could justify my adultery on hers. I could blame my adultery on her controlling nature. I could justify the divorce because of her insane actions. I could blame not having any money because of alimony and child support on her. I could and by the world’s standards be totally justified in having walked away from her. I could justify the divorce by the fact, quite literally, that she might have killed me if we had not split up for good in 1993. It was that contentious between 1991-1993. I literally slept with one eye open during those final two years of our marriage.

 

However, post-salvation, I look back at those days in the early 90s with a sense of awe and appreciation to the Lord for watching over me and allowing me to, literally, stay alive and live through it. At the same time, I realize that even though my first wife had her own affair, she had abused drugs, spent money like it grew on trees, and made my life a living hell at times, my response was not godly and was part of the blame for the situation. There were so many things that I could have done differently. I could have not married her to begin with back when I was 18 years old. I knew that it was a volatile relationship even when we dating. There were warning signs. I could have tried harder to convince her that our marriage was not meeting my needs and that I was desperately angry at her for it. I could have tried harder to get us marital counseling. Also, when the marriage was beyond repair, I could have simply ended the relationship and lived alone until our divorce was final and only then began any new relationships. My salvation made me realize that I could have done things differently and that I needed to accept responsibility for the role that I played in the breakup of my first marriage.

 

Sure, part of the reason that marriages breakup is often because we do not let God choose our mate for us. Sure, part of the reason that marriages breakup is often because we do not put God at the center of our marriages. Sure, that if you ask any of my friends that have known me since my teens or twenties, they will tell you that the end of my first marriage was an ugly thing and that I was justified in getting out of it. I see the facts of all that. God was never the center of our marriage and it played a role in its demise. However, I must look back and say that it was not all wasted time. I learned things about marriage from my first marriage. I gained two beautiful daughters that are Meghan and Taylor. They are the two unique lives that are part of God’s design that came out of that marriage. If I had not married their mother, I would not have had Meghan and Taylor. Possibly if I had my first marriage with someone else, my life may have been on a different trajectory and with a whole lot more to show for it by my age now and I would have had children by whomever that woman might have been. However, I would not have had those unique individuals, my girls, Meghan and Taylor. Thus, post-salvation, I chose to see that as the good that came from that marriage, and choose to realize that I, myself, played a role in the demise of that marriage. I am a conflict avoider and that was why that marriage started in the first place. I accepted her affair and drug abuse and all of that because I am conflict avoider. I had an affair instead of ending the marriage because I am conflict avoider. I ended the marriage instead of trying to save it because I am a conflict avoider. Sure, my first wife made it all easy to justify with her descent into insanity. She blamed her post-marriage conditions on me. We both played the blame game. After salvation, I stopped. She continued. I realized that we all participate in the problems in our lives in some way. It is rare that we can blame the problems of our lives completely and fully on others (that is not to say that there are not cases where 100% of blame can be focused on another person where we did not cause what happened such as say like 09/11, rape, random murders, etc.). However, the vast majority of problems in our lives, we, ourselves, have played a role in them. It is often pride that blinds us to our own participation in the demise of relationships, or in our conditions in which we find ourselves.

 

Not only is it true in my first marriage, but I have two dear friends right now whose marriage is deteriorating its slow and painful march toward divorce because of the blame game. Each refusing to see their own sins and blaming the other for the problems of their marriage. Each blinded to their own contributions to the downfall of their marriage. We are all Balaam at times.

 

We see the same mentality in Balaam as we read through Numbers 22:21-40 this morning for the final of the three times that we have visited this passage:

 

21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. 22 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. 23 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.

 

24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. 25 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.

 

26 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. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. 28 Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”

 

29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.”

 

30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”

 

“No,” he said.

 

31 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 facedown.

 

32 The angel of the Lord asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me.[a] 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.”

 

34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.”

 

35 The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.

 

36 When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the Moabite town on the Arnon border, at the edge of his territory. 37 Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not send you an urgent summons? Why didn’t you come to me? Am I really not able to reward you?”

 

38 “Well, I have come to you now,” Balaam replied. “But I can’t say whatever I please. I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.”

 

39 Then Balaam went with Balak to Kiriath Huzoth. 40 Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep, and gave some to Balaam and the officials who were with him. 41 The next morning Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth Baal, and from there he could see the outskirts of the Israelite camp.

 

Here, we see Balaam being so blinded by his own pride that he beats his trusted donkey instead of seeing his own pride. The donkey saved Balaam’s life but made him look foolish in the process. Balaam lashed out at the donkey but could not see how his own actions made him end up off the road in a field. Lashing out at others allows us to avoid examining our own contributions to our lives going off course. We are all Balaam at times. We beat the donkey instead of looking at ourselves. We blame others for not getting it instead of examining why people have reacted to us the way they have.

 

There was once a song by Michael Jackson called “The Man in the Mirror” in which the lyrics tell us that we must first examine ourselves and make a change. It is so much easier to blame others for our problems than it is to examine ourselves for the contributions that we have made to our lives getting off course. It is easier to play the blame game rather than taking responsibility for our own actions. No change has to occur when we can blame other people. Let us be a people who can look in the mirror and humbly see where we played a role in our own demise. Let us look to God for guidance in changing those distasteful things about ourselves that are the impediments to our growth in Jesus Christ. Let us be willing to take a long hard look at ourselves and make a change. Let us look up instead of horizontally and blaming others. Let us seek God’s guidance in every decision we make – from the wives and husbands we choose, to the marriages that we get into, the relationships that we have with others, to our jobs, to our choices we make each day. Let’s follow God’s guidance. Let’s quit playing the horizontal blame game and start looking upward to God.

 

Amen and Amen.

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