NUMBERS 22:21-23:30 | LUKE 1:57-80 | PSALM 58:1-11 | PROVERBS 11:12-13
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We resume Baalam’s story here. Yesterday he was summoned by Balak, the king of Moab with the sole purpose of having him utter a curse upon the people of Israel which was this huge population wandering the desert and fast approaching the borders of Moab with a view to cross the Jordan river. Baalam initially refuses the king’s invitation, but then accepts it, and begins his journey.
There is a most unusual account of what happens next: if you think it strange that the donkey he is riding finally speaks out to Baalam, her master, when he beats her three times, it is even more strange that Baalam appears to be unperturbed at this supernatural act, and replies to the donkey in return!
Perhaps he was used to animals speaking to him. Whatever the case, Baalam goes up to Balak, and ends up uttering a lengthy blessing on Israel—not once, but twice, and from what it appears, perhaps a third one is to come in tomorrow’s reading. A blessing, mind you, not a curse as was expected.
Turning to our reading in the Book of Luke, we see today the birth of John the Baptist. A first-cousin to Jesus, and older to him by six months, John is a forerunner to the great Messiah himself. The spirit of God is anointed upon this child from the time of his birth, and both his parents Zechariah, the priest, and Elizabeth know this.
Zechariah who had become dumb-founded from the time of the angel’s announcement regarding the child they were to expect, is finally able to speak. And this is what he says of his newborn son:
76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
Turning next to the Psalms, we find David in a most vengeful mood. The power of words, especially to bless or to curse is so great a power that one must be mindful of the exact intent of our words. Just as Baalam had formed words of blessing for Israel, we find that David has formed words of scorn and cursing toward his enemies.
David is known to speak his mind, and he does so unequivocally here. He invokes curses upon his enemies, a sample of which is below:
6 Break the teeth in their mouths, O God;
tear out, O LORD, the fangs of the lions!
7 Let them vanish like water that flows away;
when they draw the bow, let their arrows be blunted.
8 Like a slug melting away as it moves along,
like a stillborn child, may they not see the sun.
And more on the power and influence of words is affirmed by King Solomon in the proverbs that we have for today. He reminds us of this:
12 A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor,
but a man of understanding holds his tongue.
13 A gossip betrays a confidence,
but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word. Amen.