Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Dumb Ass Speaks!

I must say, I have debated whether or not to use "The Dumb Ass Speaks" as the title for this article. And I can't tell you how many times I have laughed hysterically over it, because I know what it may initially imply - that I'm talking about a particular person who is saying something absolutely stupid. And what's funny is that I'm not talking about a person at all, but a donkey!  

The word donkey or ass is interchangeable. The word 'ass' is actually derived from the last word in the species classification, Equus Africanus Asinus. That particular word "asinus" is where the word "asinine" comes from, which means extremely or utterly foolish. A great word if you ask me, and a truly hilarious one as well.

In our language, a male donkey is called a 'jack', thus a jack-ass. A female donkey is called a 'jennet'. A 'mule' is a cross between a jackass and a female horse. A 'hinny' is a cross between a jennet and a male horse.

I remember as a young boy, saying something foolish, and being told, "Don't be a jackass." Sometimes it was shortened it to, "Don't be an ass." When I reflect back on those words, I now laugh out loud.

Over the years, the poor donkey has gotten a notoriously bad rap for being stubborn, headstrong, and downright pigheaded. However, there's an interesting explanation for why they are sometimes that way. When a donkey perceives something as dangerous, of if they become scared, it's almost impossible to make them move towards it. It's an instinctive reaction.

Around the mid-1800's, the term 'donkey' became a more common term instead of 'ass'. The King James Version of the Bible, originally written in 1611, actually uses the word 'ass' instead of 'donkey'. And it seems to me that most people who are quoting a verse from the King James Bible containing this word, hesitate from saying it out loud, for fear that someone might chuckle. Most modern versions of the Bible substitute the word donkey instead.

There is even a Christmas carol that uses the word 'ass'. And many are too embarrassed to sing the verse that contains that word. It's found in the song, "What Child Is This", written in 1865. Verse two of the song goes like this, "Why lies He in such mean estate, where ox and ass are feeding? Good Christian, fear: for sinners here, the silent Word is pleading."


The word I use in the title, dumb, is not referring to stupid, but speechless - unable to talk - as in deaf and dumb. So when I say that the dumb ass speaks, what I'm saying is that a donkey, who of course can't speak, actually talks out loud. It's the miracle of a talking donkey - a dumb ass speaks. And what we only see in cartoons, or movies, actually really happened. This fascinating miracle is recorded in detail in the Bible. It's the story of Balaam and his donkey.

Here's the background for the story...... the king of the Moabites was afraid that the Israelites, God's chosen people, were going to take his land, so he sent for a man named Balaam to curse the nation of Israel. Balaam started on his journey to meet the king. Obviously, this was against God's will. So here's how God stopped Balaam. 

So the next morning Balaam got up, saddled his donkey, and started off with the Moabite officials. But God was angry that Balaam was going, so he sent the angel of the Lord to stand in the road to block his way. As Balaam and two servants were riding along, Balaam’s donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand. The donkey bolted off the road into a field, but Balaam beat it and turned it back onto the road. Then the angel of the Lord stood at a place where the road narrowed between two vineyard walls. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it tried to squeeze by and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall. So Balaam beat the donkey again. Then the angel of the Lord moved farther down the road and stood in a place too narrow for the donkey to get by at all. This time when the donkey saw the angel, it lay down under Balaam. In a fit of rage Balaam beat the animal again with his staff.

Then the Lord gave the donkey the ability to speak. “What have I done to you that deserves your beating me three times?” it asked Balaam. “You have made me look like a fool!” Balaam shouted. “If I had a sword with me, I would kill you!”  “But I am the same donkey you have ridden all your life,” the donkey answered. “Have I ever done anything like this before?”  “No,” Balaam admitted.

Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the roadway with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bowed his head and fell face down on the ground before him. “Why did you beat your donkey those three times?” the angel of the Lord demanded. “Look, I have come to block your way because you are stubbornly resisting me. Three times the donkey saw me and shied away; otherwise, I would certainly have killed you by now and spared the donkey.” (Numbers 22:21-33)

If you read the next few chapters, you will find that the Lord eventually allows Balaam to go ahead and meet the king of Maob, but his mission is totally reversed. He goes not to curse Israel, but conversely, God gives Balaam the words to deliver 7 messages that proclaim that Israel is God's chosen, blessed nation. And the messages ultimately even predict the destruction of the Moabites! 

When we look back on our lives, sometimes we can see how we once were headed in the wrong direction ourselves, maybe living against God's will. Maybe we were once ignoring God, or even living as opposed to Him. But Jesus has the power to change lives. And perhaps you are not who you used to be. And like Balaam, your mission, your purpose in life, your words and actions now proclaim God's glory, not go against it. I hope this describes you.