If you’re a pet owner, you are in the habit of regularly talking to animals that cannot talk back: hamsters, dogs, iguanas, goldfish… You talk to them. They just wag their tails or wiggle their fins, then go on with life.

But what if they did talk back?

In one of my favorite Old Testament stories, Balaam, a proud donkey owner, ends up having an entire two-way discussion with his donkey. In Numbers 22, Balaam’s donkey refuses to pass the angel in the road that Balaam couldn’t see. As Balaam angrily wails on the donkey, Numbers 22:28 says, “Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam…”

I have a lot of questions about this encounter:

Did her voice at all resemble the voice of Donkey from Shrek?

What did Balaam think when his donkey started speaking Hebrew?

Did she stand up on her hind legs and wag her hoof disapprovingly at Balaam?

We don’t have time to speculate and my point here does not even have to do much with what the donkey said. As I read this passage recently, I was reminded:

God often speaks through unexpected methods and mouths.

We prefer to be spoken to through the inspirational words of our favorite pastor or podcast or for the words of Scripture to jump off the pages at us, magically enlightening our eyes and opening our hearts. Sometimes God speaks through devotionals, but sometimes He speaks through donkeys too.

Maybe if we listened more and talked less, we would hear Him and not be so prone to back talk when He speaks. God can speak through your pastor, but He’ll also speak through your employer, your spouse, your financial troubles, and even the weakness you feel when you’ve fallen into temptation again.

Moral of the story: don’t backtalk the donkey. That unconventional messenger may be God’s mouthpiece to address a problem area in your life. Listen to His voice, then respond with a humble heart.