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May 2017 Issue

Faith and Faithlessness in the Desert

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Devotion for Monday, May 22, 2017

Balaam Blesses the Israelites

Read Numbers 23:27–24:25

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How beautiful are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places, Israel! Numbers 24:5

In Morning and Evening Prayers, Johann Habermann recorded this prayer for blessing: “Abide with all Thy brightness, Thou brightest Light of all; / And lest we stray from rightness, make Thou Thy truth our wall. . . . Abide with Thy protection, Great Captain, clothed with might; / O’ercome our world affection and vanquish Satan’s spite. Abide with care untiring, Our God and Lord indeed; / All steadfastness inspiring, help, Lord, our every need.”

To Balak’s frustration, Balaam blessed the nation he had been hired to curse. By his third oracle he realized God wasn’t going to change His mind, so he stopped bothering with pagan rituals (24:1). No matter what he wanted to say to earn his fee, the Spirit of God came on him and compelled him to speak God’s truth (24:2).

Balaam spoke seven oracles in all. The first two attested to Israel’s blessedness (23:7–10; 18–24). The third pictured the nation’s strength and favor in God’s eyes, ending with a verse reminiscent of the Abrahamic covenant (24:3–9; see Gen. 12:3). The fourth was mainly a messianic prophecy about the “ruler [who] will come out of Jacob”—a phrase encompassing both David and Jesus the Son of David (24:15–19). The fifth (24:20) and sixth (24:21–22) indicated that Israel would defeat the Amalekites—proven enemies of Israel (see Ex. 17:8–16)—and the Midianites.

The seventh oracle (24:23–24) suggested that while nations will always rise and fall, these prophecies about Israel were rooted in a divine reality that transcended global politics. This is seen in both the messianic prophecy and the third oracle. According to Moody professor Michael Rydelnik, the phrase “greater than Agag” (24:7) could also be translated “greater than Gog” (see Ezekiel 38–39).

Apply the Word

Balaam’s prophecy is also connected to our Savior, Jesus. The “Magi from the east” (Matt. 2:1) saw that the “star will come out of Jacob” (24:17), and followed it to worship the Messiah. God used a pagan seer to proclaim the gospel. He wants us to share the good news about Jesus, too. Whom can you invite to worship?

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