Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 23 May 2022:
Numbers 24:17 – “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.”
Balaam is given a glimpse of Jesus. All of the Bible is about Jesus Christ.
“Numbers 24:17 combines a number of images that are and will become important in the symbolic grammar of scripture. First, the star and scepter are images of kingship—which is significant because Israel (Jacob) had no king at this point in their history.
Secondly, the language of Moab (which represents the enemies of YHWH and His people) having its forehead crushed harkens back to the “protoevangelium” of Genesis 3:15 where God tells the serpent (Satan) that a chosen descendent of Eve would one day bruise / crush his head, even as the serpent will bruise / crush the descendent’ s heel. Numbers 24:17 takes the imagery of kingship and the imagery of the promised serpent-trampling Savior and unites them. The Savior who will crush Satan’s head even as His own heel is crushed will be the King of Israel. Now, of course (and gloriously!) we know where this goes. However, it is awesome to see Jesus, in His penultimate words of revelation, explicitly link Himself with this prophecy — Revelation 22:16 – ‘I am the root and descendant of David, the bright morning star.’
He Himself is the star who was to rise from Israel, the King who crushed the Dragon’s head as His own heel was crushed on Calvary, and who rose again as the ‘the Morning Star,’—the herald and bringer of New Creation Dawn.
When the Morning Star appears on the horizon, Night’s death is sealed. The Day is coming. And, in that sense, the crucified, risen and now-reigning Jesus is the Morning Star of history. But He is, of course, also the Sun who has risen and will soon rise, filling the earth with the radiance of the glory of God the Father….a radiance in which those who oppose Him will be burned to ash and those who fear him will be healed of all hurts (Malachi 4:1-2). We, with all the Church, say, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:17).” (fullofeyes.com)
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Numbers 24:17 (A warning against knowledge without genuine loving faith, which is relevant to 1 Corinthians 13) — “Balaam boasts that his eyes are open. The prophets were in old times called seers. He had heard the words of God, which many do who neither heed them, nor hear God in them. He knew the knowledge of the Most High. A man may be full of the knowledge of God, yet utterly destitute of the grace of God. He calls God the Most High and the Almighty. No man could seem to express a greater respect to God; yet he had no true fear of him, love to him, nor faith in him; so far a man may go toward heaven, and yet come short of it at last. Here is Balaam’s prophecy concerning Him who should be the crown and glory of his people Israel; who is David in the type; but our Lord Jesus, the promised Messiah, is chiefly pointed at, and of him it is an illustrious prophecy. Balaam, a wicked man, shall see Christ, but shall not see him nigh; not see him as Job, who saw him as his Redeemer, and saw him for himself. When he comes in the clouds, every eye shall see him; but many will see him, as the rich man in hell saw Abraham, afar off. He shall come out of Jacob, and Israel, as a Star and a Sceptre; the former denoting his glory and lustre; the latter his power and authority. Christ shall be King, not only of Jacob and Israel, but of all the world; so that all shall be either governed by his golden sceptre, or dashed in pieces by his iron rod. Balaam prophesied concerning the Amalekites and Kenites, part of whose country he had now in view. Even a nest in a rock will not be a lasting security. Here is a prophecy that looks as far forward as to the Greeks and Romans. He acknowledges all the revolutions of states and kingdoms to be the Lord’s doing. These events will make such desolations, that scarcely any will escape. They that live then, will be as brands plucked out of the fire. May God fit us for the worst of times! Thus Balaam, instead of cursing the church, curses Amalek the first, and Rome the last enemy of the church. Not Rome pagan only, but Rome papal also; antichrist and all the antichristian powers. Let us ask ourselves, Do we in knowledge, experience, or profession, excel Balaam? No readiness of speech, even in preaching or prayer, no gifts of knowledge or prophecy, are in themselves different from, or superior to the boasted gifts of him who loved the wages of unrighteousness, and died the enemy of God. Simple dependence on the Redeemer’s atoning blood and sanctifying grace, cheerful submission to the Divine will, constant endeavours to glorify God and benefit his people, these are less splendid, but far more excellent gifts, and always accompany salvation. No boasting hypocrite ever possessed these; yet the feeblest believer has something of them, and is daily praying for more of them.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 — “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
1 Corinthians 13, “The Great Love Chapter,” is one of the most popular chapters in the Bible, and the above verses are familiar to many who have never read the Bible because they are often recited at weddings. However, theses verses should probably be read to ourselves every morning and then used as a nightly debrief to ourselves at the end of every day to assess how we did. Love is our Greatest Command from God and the chief virtue a Christian should embody. How important is love? Well, the Bible says, God is Love (1 John 4:8), and love is the fruit of our relationship with Him. To know Him is to love Him, and to love Him is to naturally love others as He loves. Love is not something we create but rather something we emanate or radiate from Him, and the closer we are to God in our love relationship with Him, the more brightly our love shines before others. Consider the below verses:
- John 15:4-7, 9 — Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
- 1 John 3:14-15, 17, 24 — We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him…. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?… Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
- 1 John 4:7-8 — Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
- 1 John 4:10, 12, 16 — In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins…. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us…. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
- 1 John 4:19, 20 — We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
- 1 John 5:1 — Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.
- Galatians 5:22 — But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness….
Love is the primary fruit of the Spirit which comes from God and is revealed by His children. Today Paul explains that real love is nothing less than miraculous and that to be a person who truly displays love is far more amazing and powerful than being a person who can speak in tongues, prophesy, preach, teach, heal, or anything else. Some may boast about their spiritual gifts or simply their natural gifts, but few can boast of this sort of love. Love like this is genuine evidence of a close relationship with Jesus.
Comments from Henry T. Blackaby — Love has no limits. Love never says, “You’ve gone too far. I can’t love you now.” “All things” means everything is included. Christlike love leaves no doubt in the mind of another that you will continue to love steadfastly. Do those close to you know that they can fail and do foolish things, yet you will not falter in your love for them? Are others assured that, even when they hurt you, you still love them, holding nothing against them? Love assumes the best about others. If someone inadvertently offends you, you choose to believe the offense was unintentional. If someone seeks to harm you, you “bear all things,” forgiving unconditionally. If a positive light can be shed on a difficult encounter, you grasp it. If someone continually provokes you, you “endure all things.” You never lose hope in the ones you love. You practice the same unconditional love toward others that Christ gives to you. Paul said that he was nothing if he had the faith to move mountains, the tongue of an angel, and the gift of prophecy to understand all mysteries, yet did not have God’s love. It is unacceptable to say, “Well, I just can’t love people that way!” When God loves people through you, this is the only kind of love He has! Read 1 Corinthians 13 with gratitude that God has already expressed this complete and selfless love to you. Pray and ask Him to express it through you now, to others.
Here is an audio study on The Priority of Love by R.C. Sproul which you might find helpful and which also have relevancy to Matthew Henry’s commentary on Numbers 24: https://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/love/the-priority-of-love/
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 23 May 22: Make genuine love your goal today. Display 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 somewhere prominently; memorize them; recite them to yourself throughout the day; practice them; pray about them; compare your thoughts, words, and deeds to them; and evaluate your behavior.