The Donkey

Photo by Jeff Brown

So far in our Advent story, we’ve been traveling back and forth from Nazareth to Bethlehem, so it’s only fair that we give the donkey a nod.

Donkeys, a common mode of transportation in Biblical times, are hard working and trainable. They can handle rough terrain and heavy loads. Sounds like a perfect ride for 90 miles, a pregnant wife, and a tight schedule.

Donkeys have been carrying burdens long before that trip to Bethlehem. One donkey joined Abraham and Isaac on their heartbreaking hike toward an impossible sacrifice.

And a donkey walked with Moses on his nervous trip to Egypt for convincing Pharaoh to let God’s people go.

In Balaam‘s story, another donkey is famous for being one of only two speaking animals in the Bible (we won’t mention the first). While on one of his power trips, Balaam grew furious when his donkey stopped three times after an angel blocked the road. Unaware of the angel, Balaam struck the animal violently. After the third and final blow, Balaam’s donkey spoke, and maybe God hinted at the future Resurrection:

Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey…

Numbers 22:28

Of course, we can’t forget the supporting role a young donkey played on Palm Sunday. For His important entrance into Jerusalem, Jesus chose an untrained, never-before-ridden, colt. It was an unthinkable selection for a normal king. It was an impossible choice for a slow ride through a noisy, palm-waving crowd. With each steady hoofbeat, that cloak-stepping colt paraded Jesus’ authority and power. Whoever had eyes to see, recognized Jesus as the One who parts seas, calms storms, and befriends wild beasts. Clearly, this was not your ordinary King. Alleluia!

Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah 9:9

Let’s clip-clop back in time again to that pregnant ride from Nazareth. Like all expecting couples, I’ll bet Mary and Joseph talked much about what was ahead of them. Perhaps they also covered a few miles and calmed some nerves by reviewing what God had done in their lives and throughout history. All with their mulish-metronome keeping time and moving the Story along.

From anywhere we are, we can trace the deliberate, but meandering tracks of God’s Rescue Plan. Even after this brutal year…

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

If you’ve been reading, you know I’m not a fan of animals or a cluttered nativity, but I always make room for our handsome donkey figure to rest near the holy family. He’s a sturdy illustration of the rising action of our Advent narrative. And if we’ve been following along, he also reminds us of how God can bring every stubborn creature to Himself.

What about you? Does the road ahead seem too long, impossible, or a dead end? Take some time to look back and pay attention. Remind yourself that God uses common things to bear our burdens. Wild and unexpected things to parade His power. Whatever it takes to move us.

Saddle up, friend. It’s the perfect ride.

Plodding along,


P.S. Want to get caught up on this series? Click HERE.

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