Zeal for God and for His ways is something that every believer is to seek. And zeal can lead us to a place where we hate the wrong and love the right. But all too often, we misplace our zeal. We become zealous without proper understanding, or for the wrong things. And this zeal, when misapplied, becomes dangerous to those around us. Misapplied zeal can lead us to destruction of innocent brothers and sisters. It can lead us to a false sense of humility. We must learn to be zealous, but what exactly are we to be zealous about, and how are we to apply it?
When Balaam looks over the masses of Israel he is intent on cursing them. Doing so will lead to his personal enrichment and elevation in honor and status. But Balaam is limited in his role. He is only able to speak what God tells him to say, and God has no intention of cursing Israel. And so the words that Balaam speaks over Israel are instead blessings. And yet by the end of the passage, Israel ends up cursed anyway. Why? What went wrong?
The story of Balaam and the talking donkey is one of the more popular Sunday School stories in the Bible. We are all enamored by the oddity of an animal that speaks to this odd man. And once again we get caught in the trap of another Bible story. We focus on the oddity and in doing so we miss out on something that is of much more value than a supernaturally vocal jackass.
Israel is on the move and they are heading out of the wilderness. Their 40 years of isolation, training, and judgment are nearly over. Until then, there is the trip that lies before them, and this trip is once again fraught with tests. Will they pass? Have they learned? Is this second generation going to fare better than their parents? This journey out of the wilderness reveals a lot. A lot of growth and a lot of faith. But on many levels they are just like the generation past.