Jane and I walked into the second-hand store looking for a copy of the Amplified Bible. As we came around the corner there was a big white Bible laying out on the ledge, separate from the other shelved books. I said, “Oh look, there’s Joyce Meyer’s Bible.” At that moment it didn’t even occur to me that Joyce uses the Amplified all the time. There it was, laid out so nicely for us, but I somehow didn’t make the connection. We started to walk away.
Then two strangers came up looking for a particular book and began asking a lot of questions. They were somewhat annoying, but we were polite and they “happened” to keep us there just long enough that Jane “happened” to look down and see the spine of Joyce’s Bible. As plain as could be it read: “Amplified Version.” Sometimes God puts an answer right in front of us and we still don’t see it. But because He knows what’s in our hearts He gives us more than one chance and comes at us in any way possible.
This is our blessed assurance. We don’t want to miss God, but if we do, God has a promise we can claim beforehand for those times when we miss or ignore the revelation. Second Corinthians 5:14 says: “The love of Christ constraineth us.” The word “constrain” means to bind together or draw together. He’s relentless and keeps coming back, like when you want someone to come for dinner and you keep asking them and try all kinds of ways to get them to just give in and say, “Okay, I’ll come.”
Parents know that children have this constraining thing down to an uncanny science when they want something. They come at you from every imaginable angle to get it. Jesus does the same with us so that we listen to Him.
Throughout the Bible there are many examples of the Lord constraining His people. One of my favorites is the record of Balaam and the ass. It’s found in Numbers 22 and is the funniest of Bible stories.
Balak, the king of Moab, knew Balaam as a prophet. If he could get Balaam to prophesy against the Israelites in the upcoming battle, he would win. So King Balak sent his men to Balaam with a nice bribe.
Balaam told the men he’d ask God about what to do and let them know in the morning. God not only forbid him to go, but He forbid him to prophesy against Israel. But King Balak wasn’t giving up so easily. He sent more prestigious men to Balaam with the promise of promotion, a place of honor in his kingdom and the message, “I will pay you very well and do whatever you tell me. Just come and curse these people for me!”
Balaam decided to ask God one more time if he could go. Balaam wanted to go. He wanted the promotion, the prestige and the money. Everything good, right? Surely God would bless this, right? This makes me think of how many times we try to make God bless what we’ve already decided we’re going to do.
God gave Balaam another chance and said, “If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them.” God said, “if the men call,” but Balaam skipped right over the “if” part and “rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.” God was angry with Balaam’s action, but because of God’s persistent love, He gave Balaam another chance to do the right thing. He sent an angel to try to keep him from making a big mistake:
“And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the Lord stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.
“And the ass saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way.
“But the angel of the Lord stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side. And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall: and he smote her again.
“And the angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.”
This next part is hilarious:
“And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?”
Wouldn’t you think Balaam would wake up by now? After all, his ass was talking to him! But Balaam was so outrageously angry that he actually started talking back to the ass and carried on a whole conversation.
“And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.
“And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? and he said, Nay.”
Then finally God got through to Balaam:
“Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.
“And the angel of the Lord said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? Behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me: And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive.
“And Balaam said unto the angel of the Lord, I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again.”
I know we usually do our best to listen for the Lord’s guiding and then follow through on His instructions, but isn’t it great to know that when we miss it, God will go to the farthest ends, (even if it takes talking through the mouth of an ass), to constrain us and compel us to come back to Him?
In the bookstore Christ worked through two strangers to constrain us and they kept us at the bookshelf until we saw the desired Amplified Bible right there in plain sight.
God constrained Balaam through a talking animal. What an amazing Lord we have.
Question: “Why was the ass smarter than the man?” Answer: “Because she could see what was right in front of her.”
Let’s pray that we will open our eyes to see what the Lord puts right in front of us and thank God that He will give us more than one chance to do the right thing.
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