In the 1950s, seven movie comedies were released featuring a talking mule named Francis. The first six movies centered around Francis, the commanding general of the 123rd Mule Detachment and Peter Stirling (played by Donald O’Connor), a hapless, young World War II soldier not near as intelligent as his mule.
To create the impression that the mule was actually talking, a thread was fed into the animal’s mouth, which when tugged, caused the mule to try to remove it by moving her lips. Universal Studios paid $350 for the mule, but made millions from the role.
Eventually Donald O’Connor quit the movie series, citing that, “When you’ve made six pictures and the mule still gets more fan mail than you do….” The final installment of the movie series substituted Donald O’Connor for Mickey Rooney–but it was considered a poor facsimile.
The irony of the movie series is that a mule displayed common sense while his owner revealed very little intelligence.
We’ll see more of that in today’s reading. Please join me!
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Luke 1:57-80. The first chapter of Luke is really a fun read—kind of like reading the script to a musical. Angels appear, we learn of two surprise pregnancies, and people spontaneously break into song.
The ancient church named Zechariah’s song “Bendictus”, which means “Praise be.” The first eight verses offer adulation to God. Then the last four verses form an address to the child, John the Baptist.
While Zechariah and Elizabeth understandably celebrated the birth of their child, this first chapter exudes an anticipation, a culmination of universal history pointing to the birth of Jesus. Not only was Mary pregnant with her child, but all creation was pregnant in anticipation of Jesus entering the world.
Proverbs 11:12. One of the overarching themes I see in Proverbs is the foolishness in talking too much and saying whatever comes to mind. Rather, “a man of understanding holds his tongue.”
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Although God appeared to Balaam in Numbers 22 granting him permission to see Balak, in verse 22 we read that God was angry with him. So why was God angry with Balaam? Scholars have debated this question for centuries, but the answer seems quite clear to me: God knew Balaam’s heart—and he was on his way to curse Israel rather than bless it.
When Balaam finally arrived, he spoke a blessing over Israel four times. Interestingly enough, his blessings correlate with an element of the original blessings God gave Abraham regarding his heirs:
- The descendents of Abraham would be like the dust of the earth (23:10 and Genesis 28:14)
- God would be with them (23:21 and Genesis 17:7)
- Israel would inherit the land God promised (24:5,6 and Genesis 12:7)
Most amazing of all in this story is the presence of a talking donkey
God can speak to us through any means. All too often we determine who will speak to us. But in this case, a donkey spoke to Balaam.
Believe it or not, God speak to you through your spouse, an irritating co-worker, even your mother. The key for us is to keep our hearts open.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- How has God spoken to you through unexpected donkeys?
- How did you grow (or not grow) from the experience?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.