The Unlikely Prophecy

1888931_orig

Most of the prophecies of the Bible were made by godly men and women. Not so in the case of the prophecy we will be looking at in this post. The man known as Balaam, the son of Beor, was a diviner who’s story begins in Chapter 22 of the Book of Numbers. He was not an Israelite and is often reviled as a “wicked man” in both the Torah and the New Testament.

Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing…

2 Peter 2:15 ESV

Other New Testament references to Balaam include Jude 1:11 and Revelation 2:14. On a positive note, Balaam refused to speak what God did not speak and would not curse the Israelites, even though King Balak of Moab offered him money to do so (Numbers 22–24). Doesn’t sound like a bad guy right? Balaam’s error and the source of his wickedness came after the prophecies, from him sabotaging the Israelites as they entered the Promised Land. According to Revelation (Revelation 2:14), Balaam told King Balak how to get the Israelites to commit sin by enticing them with sexual immorality and food sacrificed to idols. The Israelites fell into transgression because of these traps and God sent a deadly plague to them as a result (Numbers 31:16). And it was this unlikely man that God chose to use to make a prophecy about the coming Messiah.

Balaam gave seven prophecies within his four oracles about the nation of Israel. All the prophecies which Balaam makes take the form of Hebrew poems between Numbers 23 and 24. It is the fourth prophecy that I’d like to focus on.

And he took up his discourse and said,

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

The Star out of Jacob

This is a reference to that lines up with so many other Messianic prophecies establishing the lineage. Jacob, of course, is another way of referring to Israel. The Messiah would not be a gentile or from any other nation. The Messiah of the world had to come out of the nation of Israel. We’ve already talked extensively about the Messianic lineage how that lines up with Jesus in the post Lineage Speaks Loudly. The use of the star illustration carries some importance as well. A star is both a sign for people to look for and an allusion to power. Remember, it was a star that was used by God to highlight the arrival of Jesus on the world stage.

After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Matthew 2:9-11 ESV

The Scepter Shall Rise out of Israel

A scepter has long been regarded as a symbol or royalty and authority. A ruling monarch would use his scepter when making edicts as an act of sovereignty. The Messiah is described as the highest authority that everyone will one-day bow before. He is both royalty and sovereign.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11 ESV

One to Come

Balaam saw the one to come, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near.” That’s an obvious prophecy of something yet to happen…a Messiah yet to come. Jesus is mentioned multiple times in the New Testament as the one is was said to come, by Balaam and others.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14 ESV

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

John 6:14 ESV

Jesus is the one who was to come. He is the Messiah of the world who came out of Israel. And there is no other name under heaven by which we may be saved. Every knee will bow before Him for He is sovereign. And it was a very unlikely person that God chose to use to proclaim it to the world.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters!

Advertisements

The Bronze Serpent

1888931_orig

We are now in our fourth book of the Bible on our journey through the Old Testament looking at prophecies of the Messiah and how Jesus fulfilled them. For previous posts on this series look back at the Messiah tab on my home screen or click the hyperlink. This is post 14 in the series and it begins the book of Numbers. We aren’t starting from the beginning, however. We’ll jump in at chapter 21, with a peculiar story with poisonous snakes.

During the conquest of the promised land, the Israelites faced many challenges. But, the Lord was faithful at every step of the journey. He defeated enemy after enemy as He promised He would. Israel, on the other hand, was anything but faithful. Yes, they had their bright moments. But as a whole, Israel was a very stubborn, impatient, and discontent people. Sound familiar? Looking at Israel is like looking in the mirror. Israel’s sin is often our own.

And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.”

Numbers 21:5 (ESV)

After all that God had done for the nation of Israel, they spoke against Him. God had just won a decisive battle for the people of Israel not long before this scene took place. God’s victory on their behalf had less weight on their mindset than their own selfish wants. I’m convinced, that one of the things that displease God the most is being ungrateful and selfish. One reason I believe that is because of how God responded to their lack of faith and contentment.

Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.

Numbers 21:6 (ESV)

Pretty extreme right? The apostle Paul would later warn Christ’s followers about repeating the same mistakes as the people of Israel. In 1 Corinthians chapter 10, Paul says that the people put Christ to the test in the wilderness by grumbling and indulging in selfish behaviors. Because of that, they faced very severe punishment.

We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.

1 Corinthians 10:9-11 ESV

Christ in this sense is used interchangeably with God. Remember back to the rock that gave forth water for the people to drink? The rock was both God and Christ. The role of the Christ is to save the people. God continually operated in that role throughout the Bible as a picture of when He would do that in human form in the person of Jesus. This story in Numbers 21 is one of those examples. Along with the wrath, God also provided a way to escape. That’s exactly what the Messiah’s mission is all about. The Messiah is God’s loving way of escape.

And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

Numbers 21:7-9 ESV

Humility is always met with grace. Once the people repented of their sin, they received mercy. This mercy was in the form of a bronze serpent lifted up on a pole for all of the people to see and live. Now of course, this serpent didn’t actually save anyone. Faith in what God did is what saved the people. And this act of God would be a powerful picture of what the Messiah came to do. Jesus Himself used this event in Numbers 21 to tell us why He came.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:14-17 ESV

Where there is wrath, God has made a way for mercy. His name is Jesus.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters