About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Balaam Sees The Star


It was over 1400 years before Jesus was born when Israel was preparing to enter the promised land of Canaan.  Israel was on the border of Moab, and Balak, the king of Moab, feared the sight of Israel.  He knew he couldn't defeat Israel in battle so he decided upon another route to conquer them.   


Back in those days, all civilizations were polytheistic,  that is, believing in more than one God.  Israel was distinct among all civilizations because they only believed in one God, although from time to time they did stray into polytheism.  All of these old civilizations had men who claimed to be in contact with the gods.  They were called by many titles, such as, prophets, sorcerers, or diviners.  Sorcery became a well developed mystical art, and those who practiced it were very influential.   


Balaam was one of the most influential sorcerers in the middle east back then.  He lived near the Euphrates River, about 360 miles away from king Balak's home.  Balaam was so influential that Balak asked him to come to Moab to put a curse on Israel.  That was the only way Balak figured he could get rid of Israel. 


In response to this request, Balaam, a pagan sorcerer, enquired from the God of Israel if he should go to Balak and curse Israel.  You must remember that Balaam would have accepted the Israeli God as just one of a number of gods.  Miraculously, Yahweh actually answered Balaam and allowed him to go to Balak with one stipulation.  Balaam was to do exactly what God told him to do, and that included not cursing Israel. 


The only reason why God used this pagan sorcerer as one of His prophets was for the benefit of Israel.  God can, and will, go to any extreme to accomplish His will concerning His people, which today includes both Christians and Israelis. 


Balaam gave Balak five prophecies.  I'd like to quote part of one that is found in Numbers 24:17.  These words spoken by this pagan sorcerer are astonishing.  "I see him, but not now;  I behold him, but not near.  A star will come out of Jacob, and a scepter will rise out of Israel."  


I'm especially touched by these words during this Christmas season.  Here was a pagan sorcerer who lived some 1400 years before the birth of Jesus.  He saw Jesus in a vision walking the paths of Judea in some  distant time.  Did Balaam totally understand what he saw?  I doubt it, but I bet you he felt the presence of Jesus as he beheld Him in this vision. 


Balaam did understand that the man he saw in the vision was very important to Israel.  Balaam said, "a star will come out of Jacob and a scepter out of Israel".  The star and the scepter suggest the man he saw in the vision was a future king of Israel.  Some suggest that this man was king David.  I suggest he was Jesus, and, even if he was David, David is prophetic of Jesus anyway.  


Balaam prophesied that this ruler would "crush the forehead of Moab".  These words remind me of what God said in Genesis 3:15 when He told satan, who was represented by the serpent, that He would "crush his head".  Moab represents the worldly enemy of Israel who was backed by satan.  Israel would defeat the Moabites, but there's more to this than that.  At the end of this age Balaam's prophecy will find final fulfillment when the ruler with the star and scepter comes out of Israel and destroys all the nations represented in Balaam's prophecy.  It's thus clear to me that Israel has prophetic and historic significance right up to the end of this age. Israel was not set aside by God in 70 A. D. as some suggest.  Jesus will crush the forehead of Moab and the other nations listed in Numbers 24 and bring all nations to their knees. 


This Christmas, when I read, "a star will come out of Jacob",  I'm reminded of the star that led other pagan sorcerers with their gifts to the boy Jesus.  They were much like Balaam.  Before Jesus returns to earth with the scepter of authority, He first came to earth as the humble servant, to be reduced to a common criminal.  The only true God of all there is, reproduced Himself into humanity and died a disgraceful death to take away His anger towards us because of our sin.  This is the real story of Christmas, and the story does not end here.  It ends when the suffering Jesus returns to earth, comes out of Israel, crushes the head of worldly nations, and rules on this earth for all eternity.  We who have trusted our lives with Him will thoroughly enjoy our new existence on a recreated planet.  The one single star that led three eastern sorcerers to Jesus will turn into flashes of lightning as Jesus sweeps across the sky to appear in Jerusalem, the city that He loves.   The Christ who was born in a stable, crucified on the cross, will be seen by angels and men alike in His glory.                



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