Scripture: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth. Edom shall be dispossessed; Seir also, his enemies, shall be dispossessed. Israel is doing valiantly. And one from Jacob shall exercise dominion and destroy the survivors of cities!” Numbers 24:17-19 ESV
Observation: Balaam pronounces this fourth and final oracle in three segments, each beginning with “and took up his discourse” (as do the first three oracles). While the first part is a blessing (A. and B.), the remaining two are perhaps apocalyptic (C.). The below outlines provide the flow of this poetic discourse.
A. Israel has a coming deliverer (v.17).
- The deliverer will come in the future (v.17a–b).
- The deliverer will be like a star and a scepter (v.17c–d).
- The deliverer will bring victory over his enemies (v.17e–f).
B. Israel will achieve dominion (vv.18–19).
- It will destroy its enemies (v.18).
- It will exercise dominion over survivors (v.19).
C. A day of reckoning awaits other godless nations (vv.20-24):
- Amalekites, at the hand of future kings (v.20),
- Kenites at the hand of Asshur (vv.21-21), and
- Kittim, Asshur, and Eber will destroy each other at the hand of God (v.24).
The Amalekites (who forty years earlier chased Israel out of the Promised Land) will face their day of reckoning at the hand of Saul (1 Samuel 14:48) and David (1 Samuel 30:18, 2 Samuel 8:12). The Kenites (who had close relations with the Midianites) are perhaps condemned because of association with an enemy. Lastly, Kittim (symbolic power from the west) one day (maybe during the end times) will wage war against Asshur (Assyria) and Eber (symbolic forces of the east). And all these nations will go down in defeat. On this down note, Balaam “drops the mic” and returns to his homeland while perturbed Balak goes his way.
Takeaway: This three-chapter drama of Balaam’s interactions with Balak and Yahweh ends with a forecast of Israel’s triumph over their neighboring enemies—but not over sinning against their holy God (see tomorrow’s Daily Focus). Thus, they need a Deliverer for that otherwise impossible feat. Hence comes the incarnate God, who is the “bright morning star” (Revelation 22:16), who will outshine (triumph over) Satan, the “morning star” (Isaiah 14:12, Luke 10:18), for the devil merely masquerades as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthian 11:14). And Christ is also the “scepter of righteousness” (Psalm 45:6 and Hebrews 1:8). Indeed, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3 ESV).
So how do these Christological statements play out in our lives? Dare we compare ourselves to Israel and think we would fare better outside the Gospel of grace and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit? No, we need to deepen our understanding of our Gospel of Grace that assures our doubting hearts that Christ has paid the penalty for our sins in full. And we need to trust that his Holy Spirit is transforming our minds so that we hunger to know God’s will and live “upright” lives—no longer “bent over” by sin’s power. Lastly, we must embrace the hope of Christ’s return when he banishes Satan, all his minions of evil, and the presence of sin for all eternity. These are our oracles of our Christ!
Prayer: Father God, thank you for your Son, the Word, who has announced the oracles of his kingdom and Gospel of Grace. Would you please deepen our understanding of his grace, our trust in your Holy Spirit to deliver us from the power of sin, and our hope in the Bright Morning Star’s return when sin and evil no longer exist? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling