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Monday, December 12, 2016

December 12: Jesus in the Oracle of Balaam

The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor,
    the oracle of the man whose eye is opened,
the oracle of him who hears the words of God,
    and knows the knowledge of the Most High,
who sees the vision of the Almighty,
    falling down with his eyes uncovered:

I see him, but not now;
    I behold him, but not near:
a star shall come out of Jacob,
    and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
it shall crush the forehead of Moab
    and break down all the sons of Sheth. - Numbers 24:15-17, ESV

Jesus in the Oracle of Balaam:
A Star Shall Come out of Jacob

When you take your stand in opposition to God, you will lose every time. This is the lesson that Balak, king of the Moabites, should have learned when he hired Balaam the seer to curse the people of God. 

King Balak asked Balaam to curse the people of Israel as they were camped near the plains of Moab. Balaam was the son of Peor, and he lived in the town of Pethor near the Euphrates River. We don't know for sure where Pethor was exactly, but it seems like it was a long way from Moab, probably hundreds of miles away. Apparently, Balaam must have had quite a reputation as a powerful prophet in the whole region, because Balak sent for him twice, begging him to come and promising him anything Balaam wanted. Balak likely waited for weeks or perhaps even months for Balaam to finally come. 

Balaam was probably motivated by money when he went to serve Balak, even though his words indicated that he was intending to be faithful to God. God stopped him on his way, threatening him with destruction by an angel and giving his donkey both supernatural sight and speech to save Balaam's life and to keep him from sinning in his mission. 

When Balaam arrived in Moab, Balak was excited, Here was a powerful spiritual man, a man of renowned insight, who could curse these Irsaelites and send them scurrying far away from Moab. But Balak could not stop God's plans, even though he was rich and powerful and had hired the greatest prophet to curse the Israelites. Balaam gave three different oracles, in different locations, each one clearly blessing Israel and promising a bright future for them.

Balak was frustrated. We're told how "Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he struck his hands together. And Balak said to Balaam, 'I called you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have blessed them these three times. Therefore now flee to your own place. I said, ‘I will certainly honor you,’ but the Lord has held you back from honor.' (Numbers 24:10-11, ESV)"

Balaam responds to Balak's anger with firm and clear resolve: "Did I not tell your messengers whom you sent to me, ‘If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the Lord?' (Numbers 24:12-13, ESV)" Then, Balaam gives Balak one final word, one about the distant future, "the latter days."

In this fourth and final oracle, Balaam foresees a great ruler coming forth from Jacob, specifically referring to "a star" which will "rise in Jacob's house." The language here is interesting and fascinating, because Balaam comes from what will eventually become Babylon, which will later be conquered and ruled by Persia. If Balaam was indeed a world-famous prophet, as he seems to be, it would make sense that he would record his oracles and that these oracles would be preserved for future generations, copied and transmitted by scribes and kept in libraries. 

Could it be that Balaam's oracle of the star rising in Jacob's house was in the libraries available to certain magi from the East many centuries later? Could they have read the oracles of Balaam and seen this line about this powerful star-sign? Maybe these words, combined with their observations of the stars, led them on their journey to Jerusalem to look for this one who would bear the scepter from Israel and win victory over the enemies of God's people. 

Whether the wise men were led to Jesus by the oracle of Balaam or not, we know that Balaam foresaw Jesus in this fourth oracle. He saw the coming of the King of kings almost 1500 years before His birth!

Lord Jesus, You came in the fullness of time, and You reign in supreme and unchallenged authority over all of the nations of the world. Let us worship You with renewed wonder at Your power this Christmas! Amen.


"The Kings of the Earth" is a powerful anthem from Savior: The Story of God's Passion for His People, a modern oratorio by Greg Nelson and Bob Farrell. Here is a video of Steve Green, Larnelle Harris and Steve Amerson performing this stirring song:

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