Today’s Bible reading: Numbers 24-25:18; Luke 2:1-35; Psalm 59:1-17; Proverbs 11:14
As we read through this story of Balaam we see that his prophecies get worse for Balak. First Balaam refuses to curse Israel. Then he blesses Israel. In the third prophecy which we read today, he curses Balak. He (Balak) should have quit while he was ahead (or, less far behind).
I don’t understand why God is using Balaam who is clearly not dedicated to God. But I guess this shows that God can use non-believers in our lives to teach us something but I think this is rare. Balak wasn’t exactly a believer either. But at least he realized that his battle with Israel was spiritual. I think that is one lesson we can take-away from this story. We don’t need to fight against other human beings. The real battle is one that goes on in our sinful and limited mind. We need to seek God’s truth. If we do that, and act on it, our lives will be less frustrating. In the end that is the lesson Balak learned. He wanted Israel defeated but he knew he couldn’t do it physically so he tried to do it spiritually. But God wasn’t going to curse Israel. Balak could have saved himself a lot of time and expense by seeking out God rather than seeking out a sorcerer.
God does appear to speak through Balaam and in these passages we see a beautiful picture of Israel’s future. They will be a large nation (Numbers 24:6). They will be very prosperous (Numbers 24:7). God is their strength (Numbers 24:8). Balaam is also given a vision of Jesus in verses 16-19.
What Balak could not do, Israel does to itself in Numbers 25. We’ll read later on that it was Balaam who suggested to Balak to destroy Israel from within rather than from without. Sex is a weakness in males and Balak exploited it. He sent women to seduce the men of Israel. At this time the worship of gods was tied to sex so it seems that the Moabite women offered sex to the men if they would worship their pagan gods. This way they got the men to commit two sins at once. The plan was to make Israel sin against God and lose some of God’s protection Balaam had told Balak about. The men probably thought “Why, not? What harm could it do?” Isn’t that the way we always think of sex? In the end Balak got what he wanted. God sent a plague on Israel and 24,000 died.
When I thought about this verse and how Israel brought trouble upon itself I couldn’t help but think of the United States. For over 200 years we have enjoyed protection from enemies by having two large oceans and two friendly neighbors on our borders. But I can see us destroying ourselves from within. Certainly the way we view sex and sex-related issues (e.g. abortion, pornography, homosexuality) has something to do with it. But so does our pride and strides towards atheism. The problem is we have the same attitude problem as the men of Israel. We don’t see the harm.
We see God using another evil-minded person in our New Testament reading in Luke 2. Caesar Augustus came to power after many bloody battles that left the Roman Empire in tatters. He was not a god fearing man at all. But God had predicted that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem and He needed to get Mary and Joseph there at the time of her delivery. Coincidentally (really, not) Augustus orders a census which requires everyone to travel to their home town to be counted. Everything that happens on this earth works into God’s plan.
Notice that Jesus was Mary’s first child (Luke 2:7). Mary did not remain a virgin her entire life as Catholicism teaches. We’ve already seen that Jesus had brothers and sisters.
Mary laid Jesus in a manger which is a feeding trough for animals. Its hard to believe that was God lying there. But God didn’t come into the world to call attention to Himself. He came into it to save us from our sin.
Notice that the Bible doesn’t tell us how many shepherds came to see Jesus. Somewhere in history we got the idea that there were three. But that is not supported by the Bible.
Mary and Joseph follow the law of the Old Testament and have Jesus circumcised on the 8th day (Luke 2:22). By circumcising a baby the parents were identifying the child with sin. Jesus was without sin so He really didn’t need to be circumcised. I’m not sure if Mary and Joseph realized that. Nevertheless, here we see Jesus identifying Himself with sinners. This was part of God’s plan from the beginning.
Mary and Joseph also dedicated Jesus back to God as they were supposed to (we recently read about this in Leviticus). Notice that Mary and Joseph must have been quite poor because they could only afford two birds as their sacrificial offering (Luke 2:24).
A man named Simeon comes to see Jesus as well and offers praise to God (Luke 2:25-35). Notice that although Jesus was born into Israel, the salvation He offered was always meant for “all people” (Luke 2:31).
How true are the words spoken by Simeon in verse 34. Many a person has tripped and fell over Jesus by rejecting Him. But to many others, knowing Jesus is pure joy. I have been on both sides of this and can tell you that if you’ve fallen you can get back up. You can reject Jesus all you want but He is always waiting for you to change your mind. To me Jesus was nothing. He was fiction. But now He is everything.
Luke 2:35 tells us that through Jesus the deepest thoughts of mankind will be revealed. Jesus exposes us for who we are. That pushes some further away from Him as they don’t want to be confronted with the truth. But it also draws others to Him as they realize they need to be saved from who they are. The choice is yours.
In Psalm 59:7 we read that many people sin intentionally thinking there will be no consequences. They only see life as existing on this earth. They think no one will find out what they are doing. But God sees. He sees everything. And He will hold everyone whose sins haven’t been paid by Jesus accountable.
Could there be a more relevant verse for the United States today than Proverbs 14? What could be less wise than relying on the human mind, and only the human mind, to solve the many problems we have today. The most unwise thing about our leaders is that they don’t realize they are unwise. The first thing that has to happen is for us (all of us) to realize that we don’t have the answers. We create the problems. But we don’t have the answers. Only the wisdom of God can save us from ourselves.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post