When I stepped under the flaps of the Big Top for the first time I was totally mesmerized. The circus had come to town and my uncle took my cousins and me to see The Greatest Show on Earth. Okay, it wasn’t Ringling Brothers so it wasn’t the “greatest”, but I was still impressed. I remember being amazed as a young child by the animals, the acrobats and, of course, the clowns. Over the years details of that event have more or less faded into just a good memory. I can’t really be sure if the lady dressed in pink leotards was actually standing on the back of two enormous white horses as she raced at breakneck speed around the arena. Somehow she got into this special memory and I’d like to think she was really there.
I always wondered how she did it. How did she keep the horses together and how did she maintain her balance? Why didn’t the animals race off in two difference directions making her choose one over the other? Why this didn’t happen, causing her to abandon one thundering horse and jump with both feet onto the back of the other was a fascinating mystery to me.
Have you ever known someone thundering around the arena trying to stand on two horses at once? Not in the circus, but in real life? In the Bible the prophet Balaam in the Old Testament did just that. He heard from God, but also hired himself out as one who was well-known for his divination and looking at omens. One of the foreign kings of his day asked Balaam to curse God’s people and it was all downhill from there. He had one foot in God’s camp and one on the side of those opposing God. And God even had to use a donkey to get his attention. Before he knew it, he had to make a decision and the one he made wasn’t a good one. You can read the whole story in Numbers 22-24.
I have to admit that this is a pretty extreme instance of trying to maintain a balancing act between serving God and listening to the world, but to some extent I think as believers we do something similar all the time. The horses are thundering, and we may not even be aware of the danger.
What motivated Balaam? Probably the same things that get us into trouble—a little bit of pride and arrogance with some greed and deceit mixed in. Or we simply just “forsake the right way” as Balaam did (2 Peter 2:15). So what is the right way? God gives instructions throughout His Word on how we should live a life that pleases Him, but in Psalm 37 there seems to be a concentration of guidance.
In this Psalm David encourages the righteous to live a life “the right way.” Certain phrases jump off the page, phrases such as trust in the Lord, delight yourself in the Lord, commit your way to the Lord and rest in the Lord. And each exhortation has the qualifier, in or to the Lord. The wrong way is also presented in this psalm—don’t fret, don’t be envious and cease from anger and wrath. How can you fret when you are trusting in the Lord? You have to choose.
When life begins to pull you apart and you have difficult choices to make, remember God’s instructions and forget the balancing act. Choose the right horse to stand on and let the other go thundering off on its own.