NUMBERS 24:1-25:18 | LUKE 2:1-35 | PSALM 59:1-17 | PROVERBS 11:14
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“I summoned you to curse my enemies, but you have blessed them these three times. 11 Now leave at once and go home! I said I would reward you handsomely, but the LORD has kept you from being rewarded.”
These were Balak’s words to Baalam, the seer, whom Balak had summoned with the hope that curses would be heaped upon Israel even as Israel advanced toward Canaan.
But alas, Baalam did just the opposite: he heaped blessings upon Israel, thrice in yesterday’s chapter, and in his fourth oracle today, he utters even more blessings upon Israel. But beyond all this, Baalam proceeds to give Balak some not-so-nice news: he tells them that the forces of Israel will soon utterly decimate Balak and all the neighboring kingdoms. So much for asking Baalam to come and help out!
Next, we learn of yet another grave offense that Israel commits against their God, Yahweh. Knowing full well what their position ought to be when it comes to the worship of idols, they apparently suffer a momentary lapse of memory and reason yet again. The men begin to take up with the idol-worshipping women of Moab, and soon the sons of Israel begin to do the same.
Well, you know what’s coming next: the wrath of God. And surely does it come, and with a vengeance at that. By the time God is through with them, twenty-four thousand young men have been slain, and a clear example has been made of one man and one Moabite woman.
Turning next to our reading in the book of Luke, we find the beginnings of the Christmas story: Jesus is born in a humble manger to two scared and mystified young people, Joseph and Mary. And who are the first to come out to see this little babe? Lowly shepherds and herdsmen to whom the news of this glorious and miraculous birth is announced.
Angels announce this birth to the shepherds in this way: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
And besides the shepherds, there is one other person to whom this birth announcement is made. An old man by the name of Simeon who lives in the Temple is well-aware of who this baby is when its young parents bring him into the Temple for the requisite thanksgiving offering. Simeon takes up the child in his arms and says this:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
What a privilege it is for Simeon to have held his own savior in his arms! Simeon recognizes the long-awaited Messiah, and yet that is not true for many others in the Temple, more about whom we will learn soon enough.
Next, we turn to the Psalms, and find in Psalm 59 yet another soul-baring paean that David has penned for posterity. Despite all his misgivings about the plight of those that oppress him, he is steadfast in one thing: his hope in God Almighty. These words attest to his thoughts:
16 But I will sing of your strength,
in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress,
my refuge in times of trouble.
17 O my Strength, I sing praise to you;
you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.
Finally, a verse from Solomon’s book of Proverbs:
14 For lack of guidance a nation falls,
but victory is won through many advisers.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word. Amen.