Wednesday, March 15, 2017

March 15: Numbers 22:21 – 23; Psalm 58; Proverbs 11:12-13; Luke 1:57-80


            Numbers: God is angry with Balaam because he went with the Moabites who wanted him to curse Israel. The Lord sends his angel to kill Balaam on the way. Three times, his donkey sees the angel of the Lord and avoids him. Balaam is angry with his donkey and beats her. Then the Lord speaks through the donkey and asks if she has ever done anything strange like this before.
            Then the Lord opens Balaam’s eyes to see the angel of the Lord. The angel rhetorically asks the same as the donkey, why has he beat her three times. He then explains that Balaam’s way is perverse before him. Balaam admits his sin for striking the donkey and says he will turn back if that’s what the Lord wants. But the angel tells him to go but he must only say what he will tell him to say.
            Balaam continues on with the men and meets Balak. Balak is upset that Balaam didn’t come the first time but Balaam tells Balak that he can only speak what God puts in his mouth. Balak offers some animals and the next day takes Balaam where he can see a fraction of Israel.
            Balaam has Balak build seven altars and sacrifice a bull and ram on each of them. Balaam goes by himself to listen for God. God tells him what to say and he returns to the princes of Moab and says what he is told.
            Balaam explains that Balak brought him to curse Jacob but he can’t curse those whom God has blessed. Israel is a separate nation that outnumbers the dust. He would be glad to die an upright person and be like them.
            Balak is upset that Balaam blessed his enemy. Balaam reminds Balak that he can only say what God gives him.
            Balak takes Balaam to another place where he can see fewer of Israel. There they repeat the sacrifices and God gives Balaam another oracle.
            Balaam tells Balak that God is not a man who changes his mind or lie. He has been commanded to bless and that’s what he will do. He says that God is with Israel and is among them like a king. No magic can defeat them. They are like a lion that eats its prey.
            Balak is again angry but Balaam repeats what he’s said before. Still, Balak takes him to another place and they start all over again with the sacrifices.
            Psalm: When they are sinful and wicked themselves, David questions if rulers or gods can judge correctly. They are wicked from birth and can’t be corrected. So he asks God to do some nasty things to them so that they will be swept away. When they are killed, the righteous will rejoice and understand that God judges correctly.
            Proverbs: Gossip and slander are the ways of people without sense. A wise and trustworthy person doesn’t spread these things that should be kept secret.
            Luke: The time arrived for John’s birth and Elizabeth named him John instead of Zechariah. Zechariah wrote that his name was to be John and then he could suddenly speak again. He was then filled with the Holy Spirit and gave a long discourse.
            He blessed the Lord and told of a redeemer coming from the house of David. He is to save Israel from their enemies and restore the promises of Abraham. They are to serve him in holiness and righteousness all their days. John is to be a prophet who prepares the way for the redeemer by providing knowledge of salvation and forgiveness of sins. God’s mercy will bring light to everyone.
            John grew up strong in spirit and lived in the desert until his public appearance to Israel.

What Stood Out

            Numbers: “But God's anger was kindled because he went” (Num 22:22).
            Psalm: “Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime” (Psalm 58).
            Proverbs: “He who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered” (Prov 11:13).
            Luke: “[God] has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David” (Luke 1:69).


            Numbers: Balaam is supposed to be a prophet of God. He has enough sense to ask God if he can go with Balak and doesn’t when his envoys first come. He seems to be on track when the second group comes as well. Then God tells him to go. So why is God angry with him when he does leave? Why does God try to kill him for doing what he has allowed? The answer is in Numbers 22:32. The angel of the Lord (a theophany – a manifestation of God in physical form) knows the man’s heart and that his ways are perverse. That is a synonym for wicked. Even though he has paid lip service to only doing what God has told him, he must be hoping that God will let him say something else and therefore get a great reward. Note that when the Lord confronts him on the way, Balaam says he didn’t know God was against him. For a person who supposedly heard from God, Balaam didn’t realize that God knew the intentions of his heart.
            Sufficiently warned, the Lord allows him to continue as long as he only says what God puts in his mouth. Indeed, as Balak entices him to curse Israel, Balaam stays true to what the Lord commands and blesses Israel. In fact, one well-known verse about the immutability of God comes from his first discourse. “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Num 23:19).
            We are often like Balaam when we desire something we know the Lord is against. We try all sorts of things to get our way. We look for loopholes in the Bible. We try to excuse our sin by thinking he will overlook it. But God doesn’t change his mind about sin. He doesn’t change his promises for obedience either.
            Others of us are like Balak. We simply don’t listen to what God is telling us. We ignore it and continue to try to accomplish our sinful desires.
            Psalm: Have you ever poured salt on a slug? They literally melt away and this is just what David says he wants to happen to wicked rulers or gods (i.e. judges). When we look at the evil caused by some people on the earth, we long for the day when Jesus will come back and straighten it all out. When we belong to the Lord, we have and instinctive desire to see justice done. But we have to remember that it is God’s job to bring justice, not ours. We have governments with rules and regulation to bring punishment on offenders but these are only temporary measures to restrain evil. Some governments don’t even do that. God may have to take some wicked people out of the picture for now, but that is temporary. We are looking forward to the time when the Lord puts a permanent end to sin. That is when we will truly rejoice.
            Proverbs: There are times when we should simply keep quiet about other people’s problems and sin. We don’t need to expose them to the world especially if they don’t personally involve us. Or course, there are time when we have to follow the Lord’s direction by going to a person and advancing that to public exposure when there is no repentance (Matt 18:15-17). However, more often, we should mind our own business.
            Luke: Zechariah’s prophecy about the coming Messiah and his son contain some of the familiar elements that found in the Old Testament. It is a mixture of the promises that the Messiah will rule over Israel and defeat her enemies. It also contains the elements of forgiveness and salvation coming with the Messiah. However, he speaks of the Messiah as already present (Luke 1:69). If we looked at this on a purely human element, we would say that he said this because he had listened to Elizabeth and Mary. He knew the Messiah was going to be born of Mary. But we also have to recognize that he was also speaking by the Holy Spirit. If he were only speaking from a human standpoint, it would be remarkable that he would recognize that Jesus is the Messiah even before he was born.
            God’s mercy is evident in keeping alive the promise of the Messiah ridding Israel of her enemies as well as announcing that he would bring salvation and forgiveness of sins. While wait for Jesus to return and fulfill the first part of this prophecy, we can continue to proclaim salvation and forgiveness of sins through Jesus.


            I’ve been like Balaam in the past. I can still be like him now. It is easy to ask the Lord for something, get a no answer, and then go ahead with what I wanted in the first place. Real repentance and alignment with God’s will and direction is the way I want to go, I pray that I’ll do it more often than not.

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