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 sorcerer; King Balak, King of Moab, had hired him to curse the Israelites. That definitely did not work out!
The Old Testament story starting in chapter 22 of the book of Numbers also features a talking donkey delivering a message to its owner Balaam. What is almost comical about it is Balaam’s reaction. Donkeys usually don’t talk, but that went straight over his head.
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 (Luke 19:40):
“If they [His followers] kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”
God can use stones for His purposes if He wants to. It’s a privilege that we’re also invited to bring His message across. And obviously we are in good company!