“Don’t shoot the messenger!” is usually uttered in self-defense when bringing bad news to a displeased audience. The messenger bearing bad news here is Balaam; the angry audience is King Balak. The story is found in the book of Numbers, chapters 22-24 where Balaam, a famous sorcerer of his time, was hired by Balak, King of the Moabites, in order to curse an entire nation: the people of Israel. Israel had been wandering the local desert terrain for 40 years and was now ready to move into habitable territory to claim the land God had promised them.
God has always had messengers. Sometimes the message is well received, sometimes not. And sometimes God’s messengers are angels; sometimes God uses human beings; and sometimes God uses various species of the animal kingdom. Below is an inconclusive list of animal characters God has used to bring His message across:
A Talking Donkey (Numbers 22:28): “Then the Lord gave the donkey the ability to speak.”
Obedient Cows (1 Samuel 6:12): “And sure enough, without veering off in other directions, the cows went straight along the road toward Beth-shemesh, lowing as they went.”
Restrained Lions (Daniel 6:22): “Daniel answered, “Long live the king! My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight.”
A Hungry Fish (Jonah 1:17): “Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.”
A Messenger Dove (Genesis 8:10-11): “After waiting another seven days, Noah released the dove again. This time the dove returned to him in the evening with a fresh olive leaf in its beak.”
A Devouring Snake (Exodus 7:10-12): “So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did what the Lord had commanded them. Aaron threw down his staff before Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a serpent! Then Pharaoh called in his own wise men and sorcerers, and these Egyptian magicians did the same thing with their magic. They threw down their staffs, which also became serpents! But then Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.”
Donkeys, cows, fish, lions, birds, and snakes are making a point here. God can use anybody or anything to communicate His message. To this end Jesus replied to the Pharisees asking Him to silence his followers on the day of His triumphant Jerusalem entry (Luke 19:40): “If they [His followers] kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”
There are two common misconceptions God is straightening out with his cast of animal messengers. One is: “I’m too dumb to be God’s messenger”. The other is: “I’m talented, that’s why God wants me to be His messenger.”
Whether talented or what we perceive as dumb – God can use us if He wants to – but He definitely doesn’t need to. And talent or dumbness does not make a difference to Him. God makes all the difference! The question really is: do we want to be used by God? Animals have made themselves available. Are we available? And if we are available, let’s not fall into that trap of becoming arrogant about it. God can use a donkey to bring His message across. Thank God that He also wants to include you and me to do His work!