Posted by: pmarkrobb | April 4, 2020

the facet of His ways and will

For those who have been readers during some or all of the good many years I have written during this sacred week, today’s facet will be quite familiar. It was the subject of my very first Palm Sunday post, and I have revisited it several times since. It has become one of the most powerful images in my personal experience of this week, and I have chosen it once again as the most fitting place to begin. It is how Jesus deliberately chose to begin his walk to and through the cross and the tomb – as the King, riding into town … on the back of a young donkey.

Christ’s two grand entrances were both made with great humility:  Born, not with a herald in the halls of a gilded palace, but in the anonymity and modesty of a feed trough in a common stable; and riding into Jerusalem as King, not on the back of a noble war-horse, but on the foal of a lowly donkey.  In His coming, living, and dying, Jesus maintained a singular posture. He was the servant King. The Most High bent low in becoming one of us in order to save us. Now that our lens has been rightly fixed on the lowly beast of burden, who carried the One who would soon carry ours, let us move it just a bit closer.

Many years ago, I was introduced to a deeper significance in God’s choice of a donkey to carry his Son into “battle.”  Drawing from personal study and great practical knowledge from my father-in-law (having owned a mule — the offspring of a male donkey and female horse — for many years), I have come to know the donkey is a very smart animal.  It is quite true to its description as a beast of burden, but do not be mistaken.  This is no clueless, led-around-by-the-nose farm animal.  It is equal parts fiercely stubborn will and faithful servant … and this is where I found what I am offering as the first facet.

Numbers 22:21-35 tells the story of a prophet (Balaam) and his donkey. Here it is in a nutshell: God is angry with Balaam, who has saddled his donkey and headed out with princes in the direction of Moab. Somewhere along the way, an angel of God stands, with sword drawn, in the middle of the road, who only the donkey can see. The donkey diverts out into the field to not confront the angel, and Balaam strikes his donkey out of ignorance. The angel reappears at a more narrowed patch of the path and the and again the donkey evaded, pressing against a wall on one side to get around, pinning the prophet’s leg against the wall in the process. Balaam strikes her again. One last time the angel appears in a place along the path giving the donkey no option to pass on either side. She chooses to lay down, preserving the prophet from any harm. Balaam has had it and angrily strikes her once more. At this point, God gives the animal the ability to speak, and she asks the prophet what she’s done to deserve being struck three times.

I am so tempted to write more about the ending to this fascinating story, but before I travel past the point of usefulness in what could turn easily into a rabbit hole, let’s bring this back to today’s facet. I believe this story reveals a great truth about the donkey.  Namely, it keenly senses danger and stubbornly refuses to go headlong into it.  A trusty steed?  Sound the bugle, kick your heels against his side, and he goes charging.  But a donkey?  No way, sister.  You can push and prod all you want, but this animal is going only where it determines, step by purposed and powerful step, and not a step more than there is purpose (and certainly not in the direction of danger). In this, I found a compelling parallel when considering the near complete absence of any action on Jesus’ part after His dramatic entrance into Jerusalem.

It was the most opportune moment to charge onward to the seat of power with the full support of an adoring and boisterous crowd, yet Jesus did nothing. The people waved palm branches (a symbol of military victory) and cried “Hosanna!” (which in Hebrew means “Save us!” or “Save us now!”). This was a perfect storm for a conquering king. There had to be some talk or even possibly significant pressure to act. The people expected Jesus to be their deliverer — a man of action, who would bring down the rod and make right all the times they were on the short end of the conquering stick. Yet, rather than rising to the purposes of the people, Jesus stopped and walked off their path. This King was not here to conquer earthly kingdoms. This King knew His time, walked His own path, and refused to move at another’s pace or for another’s purpose.

Can you see that facet? If so, may I suggest another? A donkey’s true nature is very much one of beast of burden, bearing burdens as a wise and faithful servant. Balaam’s donkey knew not to confront, but she also did not run. She submitted herself to the striking of an angry prophet, because the alternative was going against the messenger of God. In what amounts to the first steps of His walk to the cross, Jesus did not confront, nor did he run from the suffering He knew what was coming. He submitted to God’s purpose and became the bearer of the greatest burden — the weight of the sins of every person for all time. In His life, there was never an intent to take an earthly throne. In His death, our King’s throne would be a cross. There He would hang — in His true nature — the full weight of all our sins, faithfully born in His body.

In Jesus’ stubborn and unfailing will, He paid the price so that we might live.  What a perfect choice God made in his plan for Christ’s entrance into the city and for our redemption.  Let us all now go into this week, and the remainder of the days God has for us, walking in His deliberate ways and will.


Responses

  1. Thank you. You have given me a new way to look at donkeys in the word and in life. 👍


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