The donkey or ass as he is more frequently referred to in the Bible is an often verbally maligned creature. I recently read this dialog between an English teacher and her Chinese student. “It is easy for me -a Chinese to understand that foxes are cunning; lions are brave but why is a Donkey considered stupid in English? Is the donkey really a kind of stupid animal? The teacher’s response was, “Actually, it’s considered stubborn, not stupid.” So for the poor donkey the reputation of being either or both stubborn or stupid comes from the fact that donkeys “want to do what they want to do,” not necessarily what their master wants them to do. Please forgive me for bringing up this next point but in our modern language there is a slang derogatory term used to describe stubborn and obstinate people and that term again comes from our poor friend the donkey and it is “dumbass.”
Let’s take a look at this verse in the Bible: 1 Samuel 9:3-4 “Now the donkeys of Saul’s father, Kish, had wandered off. Kish said to his son Saul, “Take one of the servants with you and go out and hunt for the donkeys.” So they went through the hill country of Ephraim, and through the land of Shalishah. Not finding them there, they continued through the land of Shaalim without success. They also went through the land of Benjamin, but they failed to find the animals.”
Let’s think about these donkeys. They were under their master’s care. Everything was provided for them; they had food and shelter and someone to look after them. It is true at times these donkeys had to shoulder burdens but the master was careful to make sure the burden was never too much for the donkey. Despite being well cared for, these donkeys wanted things “their own way” so they left the care of the master and wandered away. They went chasing after something and they got lost.
Doesn’t this sound all too familiar? We too are under our Heavenly Father’s care, and He provides for us, yet we want things our own way. So we wander from His care chasing after things in this world and we get lost. What things do you chase after that cause you to get lost? Notice in the story the donkeys were never found. May I suggest to you that perhaps they have now been found and you and I are those dumb donkeys/asses that left the father’s care and became lost.
Now let’s examine another person in the story, namely Saul. 1 Samuel 9:14-17 “So they went up to the city. As they entered it-there was Samuel coming toward them on his way to the high place. The day before Saul’s arrival, the LORD had revealed to Samuel: At this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin whom you are to anoint as ruler of my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked upon my people; their cry has come to me. When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD assured him: This is the man I told you about; he shall govern my people.”
This time allow me to point out that Saul was just looking for his father’s lost donkeys. He was not out searching for God; no, he was going about his ordinary daily life. My friends the next point is critical for us to understand. Even though Saul was not looking for God, God was looking for and had plans for Saul. God already knew he wanted Saul to be a leader of his people. There are a few more stories just like this.
Here is what we read in Mark 2:13-17 “Once again he went out along the sea. All the crowd came to him and he taught them. As he passed by he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus, sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house,many tax collectors and sinners sat with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him. Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors and said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus heard this and said to them [that], “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
Once again Levi was not seeking Jesus; Jesus sought him out by saying “come follow me.” Tax collectors were considered the worst of the worst. Notice that Levi was even singled out because Jesus was dining with the two really bad groups “tax collectors and sinners,” but that did not stop Jesus from calling him.
Allow me to bring in just one more story. This time it comes from 1 Samuel 3:2-10: “One day Eli was asleep in his usual place. His eyes had lately grown so weak that he could not see. The lamp of God was not yet extinguished,and Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was. The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.” He ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. You called me.” “I did not call you,” Eli answered. “Go back to sleep.” So he went back to sleep. Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli. “Here I am,” he said. “You called me.” But he answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.”
Samuel did not yet recognize the LORD, since the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time. Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am. You called me.” Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth. So he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'” When Samuel went to sleep in his place, the LORD came and stood there, calling out as before: Samuel, Samuel! Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
Now I will attempt to tie these thoughts all together. There is a verse in the well-known Christian song “The King Of Love My Shepherd Is” that makes today’s point.
Perverse and foolish I have strayed,
But yet in love he sought me
Yes we can choose to be perverse and foolish and be like the dumb asses in the story that wander away from their caring master only to get lost chasing after what makes them happy in this world or we can take time to realize that he is calling us like he did Saul, Levi and Samuel. It doesn’t matter how many times in our past we may have rejected God’s call. Just like he did with Samuel, God will keep calling us.Perhapsyouthink Godwould not callyou because He knows youare a sinner. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just remember what Christ said; “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
After he was called, Levi feasted at the table of The Lord. Isn’t that what we want to do, feast at the table of the Lord? We have just one final point to examine. When Jesus was calling Samuel we read: “Samuel did not yet recognize the LORD, since the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.” Friends, Jesus wants to reveal Himself to us every day in the Bible.We too,most likely, have missed the voice of the Lord calling us a few times. Let’s commit ourselves to knowing and studying the word of God so that when God calls us we can respond by saying; speak, for your servant is listening.
We can all rest assured the one thing we were not called to by God to be is a stubborn donkey.
Heavenly Father so often in my stubbornness I chase after the things of this world and get lost. Reveal your word to me Father so that I can hear your voice and respond to your call, Amen.