I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob.
A scepter will rise out of Israel.
He will crush the foreheads of Moab,
The skulls of all the people of Sheth.
Edom will be conquered;
Seir, his enemy, will be conquered,
But Israel will grow strong.
A ruler will come out of Jacob
And destroy the survivors of the city.
Questions for children:
Our last reading revealed that the promised rescuer will come as a King. Besides blessing and ruling the nations, what other role will the Coming King play?
Today’s prophecy comes from the mouth of the reluctant (and recalcitrant) prophet, Balaam. You might remember him as the brute who beat his talking donkey, but Scripture also identifies him as the sorcerer hired by Israel’s ancient enemy, Moab, to curse God’s people while they were still enroute to the Promised Land. Under the power of God’s spirit, Balaam opens his mouth (no less than seven times), and begins to speak of a great future King of Israel who would fulfill God’s promise to Abraham not only by blessing those that had blessed his nation but also by cursing those that had cursed them. From these verses, we see the dual role the promised snake-crusher and King will play. He comes both to rescue and to judge. So again, we see that the fortune of all nations is tied to this great King of Israel. Moab attempted to curse Israel and received cursing in return. Similarly, those who would curse the King of Israel can only expect his judgment in return.
But our God is a God of mercy. He would have us read these verses and rather than continuing in Adam’s rebellion, he would have us repent, embrace his King, and receive Abraham’s blessing.
Song of warning and hope: Psalm 2
Rather than singing a Christmas song tonight, read a song from the Israelite’s song book about their coming King.
Why do the nations conspire
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
“Let us break their chains
and throw off their shackles.”
The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.
He rebukes them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“I have installed my king
on Zion, my holy mountain.”
I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:
He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have become your father.
and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
You will break them with a rod of iron;
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear
and celebrate his rule with trembling.
Kiss his son, or he will be angry
and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.