This Sunday I am going to be preaching on one of the most surprising passages from the Bible…the story of Balaam and his talking donkey, from Numbers 22. I’ve never heard anyone preach about this story. There are a number of themes in it, including obedience to God, and the choice to bless or curse. But the presence of the animal who talks is what intrigues me, because it’s so different than most other stories in the Bible.
In Jewish tradition, in a book that was written around the time of Jesus, it suggests that the souls of animals will be kept alive until the last judgement. The purpose of this is so that they may bring charges, at the judgement, against human beings who have treated them badly! (II Enoch 58:4-6)
What if animals could talk? Would we treat them better? Unfortunately, I am not sure that would make much difference. Human beings can talk, and yet we do all sorts of cruel things to each other. But what if we believed that animals had the ear of God, and could tell their story to their creator? We can be cruel to animals, because they are “just” an animal.
This Sunday we’ll be talking about what it means to be Christian–what it means to have compassion in your heart. Does compassion end at the species boundary, or does it extend to all the world?
This week’s prayer: Lord, thank you for the diversity of life on the planet; teach us how to be reverent and compassionate for your whole creation.