Advent 7: Two Accidental Blessings
“And he took up his discourse and said,
‘The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor,
the oracle of the man whose eye is opened,
the oracle of him who hears the words of God,
and knows the knowledge of the Most High,
who sees the vision of the Almighty,
falling down with his eyes uncovered:
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!'”
This passage comes to us out of the book of Numbers and is really fascinating because it is a prophecy with two meanings. God does this all the time in the Old Testament. He will give a prophecy that will apply first to the people of Israel but then has a fuller meaning that will be accomplished later on in the future.
First, let’s look at the immediate context of this passage. To make a long story short, there is a king of Moab named Balak, and he is afraid of the Israelites because God had given them victory over their enemies. So to protect himself, he hires a prophet to put a curse on them.
But here’s the catch: even though Balaam is not a godly guy, he will not prophesy something unless God allows it. This totally frustrates Balak because every time Balaam gets up to prophesy against the people of Israel, he winds up prophesying for them. That’s what happens here. Balak is trying to get Balaam to say that Moab is going to defeat them, but instead, he says that God is going to send someone from the line of Jacob to crush the forehead of Moab. That’s his own country!
This is an amazing story because, again, it draws our attention to God’s complete sovereignty over all peoples and nations. He predicts the Israelites’ victory over Moab, which happens later on in Old Testament history (in the Judges, really). But this story is also pointing to the rule and reign of Jesus as the star who came from Jacob’s line.
When God prophesies something, it is going to come to pass, no matter how long it takes to happen.
Jacob, the Trickster
For a better overall picture of this, we need to go back and look at Jacob. This is also confusing because when we think of the Old Testament patriarchs, we want to look at them as heroes that we should imitate, right? I mean, when we look at Abraham, we see someone who has such a solid faith in God that the New Testament will use him as an example for us to follow. Although, even with Abraham, we see moments where he doesn’t seem to be acting consistently in his faith.
But when we get to Jacob, this inconsistency is even more glaring. Why is this so important? It’s important because God is the One who is working out this amazing mission to save us, and he will use anybody he wants to in order to accomplish it, even if they are not living lives of faith.
Abraham had Isaac, then Isaac had twins named Esau and Jacob. Now Esau was born first, and in that culture, that meant that he should have been the one to inherit the most from his father, but God had already made it clear that the older one would serve the other. Don’t let that go unnoticed. Before they were born, God had already chosen Jacob over Esau, which was before they had done anything to gain his favor.
With that in mind, when we see them grown-up, we are not surprised when Esau gives away his birthright to Jacob, although it seems pretty shady that Jacob would hold out food to his brother until he promised to give it to him. Then as the story goes on, we’re not surprised that Isaac blesses Jacob over Esau, but it’s really surprising the way Jacob gets it. Basically, their dad is really old and wants to bless his sons. So he tells Esau to hunt down some wild game and cook it for him so he can bless him before he dies. Then, while Esau is out, Jacob and his mom trick Isaac into thinking that he is blessing Esau when it is really Jacob in disguise. How crazy is that? This is not the example of faith that we should follow.
You Can’t Trick God
But does this throw God off? No way, not even for a second. God is constantly working out his plan, and we cannot mess it up. Believe me, if it were up to you or me to make sure that God’s will comes about, then it would utterly fail.
God is in the business of using everything that happens to bring about his purpose. As we have said before and will doubtless say again as we continue this journey: God writes straight with crooked lines. And Jacob is just one example of that.
While we are looking forward to the birth of Jesus, let’s pause and pay attention to how everything had to go just right for this to happen. The coming of Jesus was prophesied countless times in Israel’s history, often at the most unusual of occasions. The same God that promised a blessing to the world while he was cursing the serpent is the one who promised a conquering star of Jacob through the mouth of a corrupt prophet.
The birth of Jesus 2,000 plus years ago was a beautiful piece in this amazing puzzle that God was putting together in front of us since the beginning of time.
Let’s talk about it:
- Grace is by nature undeserved. Let’s look at how God chose to bless Jacob before he was born, before he could do anything to earn God’s favor. What have you done to earn God’s favor? How do you need to respond to that?
- Take a minute to think about what your story is going to look like. How do you want to be remembered? Do you want it to be a story of God using you because you acted in faith, trusting him? Or do you want it to be about God using you in spite of your disobedience?
3. What does your obedience to God look like today?
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