The Star of Jacob – Numbers 24:17-19

And A Prophesied Star Arose In The Sky

17 “I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob;
a scepter will rise out of Israel.
He will crush the foreheads of Moab,
the skulls of all the people of Sheth.
18 Edom will be conquered;
Seir, his enemy, will be conquered,
but Israel will grow strong.
19 A ruler will come out of Jacob
and destroy the survivors of the city.”

Royal Ruler

It is ironic that Balaam, a man of divination sought out by Balak, would be used by God to bless, rather than curse, the people he was told to curse.  Not only did he bless Israel (much to the consternation of Balak, who was paying him good money to pronounce a curse), he prophesied about the coming King of kings and Lord of lords.  His reference to The Lord Jesus Christ was to name Him as a star, and as a scepter.  The wise men took star as a literal star, indicating that a sign in heaven would precede his birth.

In Genesis 1:14-15, God declared that the lights in the sky (sun, moon, and stars) would serve as signs to mark sacred times as well as days and years:

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so.

How fitting then that a star would rise in the night to point to the most blessed of events – the arrival of the Son of God, beautiful and perfect, in the most humble and ignoble of circumstances.  And not only did the star stay in the sky for his birth, but it led the wise men to Jesus:

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

(Just an interesting aside – note that the Magi (wise men) arrived at a HOUSE to find Jesus, not a stable/barn/cave.  They were led to the home of Joseph and Mary, where they worshiped the King of kings and Lord of lords, and gave their gifts.  These gifts were of special significance, not only for their symbolic value, but possibly necessary to enable Joseph to take his family and flee to Egypt to escape the murderous hatred of Herod after Joseph was warned by an angel in a dream.)

Lamb and Lion

The prophecy shows that the coming ruler would destroy His enemies.  And Christ did exactly that – for the last two thousand years, The Lord Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords, has been destroying His enemies by turning them into His friends.  Every time that a person gives their life to Christ, they have been destroyed as an enemy, and received as a child of God, a brother or sister, princes and princesses.

The reference to crushing their foreheads is interesting.  While grisly in detail, the forehead has been used elsewhere in scripture to indicate thought:

“This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the Lord is to be on your lips. For the Lord brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”

“And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”

The use is these cases are that our thoughts (foreheads) and actions (hands) are to be governed by the law.  And when we give our lives to Christ, the Holy Spirit indwells us, and through sanctification He aligns our thoughts and our actions with the express will of God through His word.We are thus now governed by a greater power than the law (which only points our our sin) – The Lord God Almighty Himself.  What better way to destroy your enemies than to lead them in such a way that they become your willing subjects (let alone adopted family members!)?

But that was when Jesus came as a lamb.  He came as the sacrifice to end all sacrifices, and to win the hearts of men from Satan to God.  He will next be coming as the Lion of Judah, ready to destroy all who refuse to bend the knee after His gracious invitation to join Him as his friend and brother/sister.

Approaching Apantesis

The up and coming battle prophesied by Balaam will be a bit different.  In the Greek, apantesis is a term used to describe a very unique event.  When the conquering hero returns from war, the people of his city would rush out of the city gates and meet him far away.  Then, with the conquering hero, they would join him on his return to the city, with great fanfare and rejoicing:

16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.  42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

It is imperative that we be like the wise men, ready for the journey, prepared for the sign, eagerly awaiting the time that is to come, rather than Herod, mass-murderer of children, ignorant of his Savior’s birth and hating His very existence.  Be prepared!

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I taking the time and effort to make the necessary preparations for the imminent return of my Savior?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your mercy, compassion, grace, and love abound in all that You say and do.  You are a jealous God, insofar as You show Your loving desire to protect me from evil.  Help me to be prepared for the return of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  He will come like a thief in the night.  And You, Father God, have warned us that He is coming.  Help me to be prepared so that I will be like the virgins who brought oil with them, waiting for the bridegroom to return.  Sanctify me in Your word.  Help me to do all that You want me to do here on Earth.  Let my life be the beacon of light on a hill, and fill my mouth and thoughts with the desire to tell everyone I meet about You.  Remove the barriers in my heart that would prevent me from being the person that You desire me to be.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Victory in Christ – Revelation 2:17

Cultural Relevance is Very Important.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

Special Stone

What’s so special about a white stone?  Unless you know its cultural relevance, absolutely nothing.  It doesn’t make sense, or one can come up with any number of meanings – there isn’t enough context to understand the meaning of this passage.

If you lived two thousand years ago, everyone in the area where Jesus preached would have understood the relevance.  A white stone with a person’s name inscribed on it would be given to the victor of the Roman athletic games.  It would give that person special access to a special awards banquet.

New Name

The other significant part of this was that we will be given a new name.  Names were very important in scripture.  A person’s name described their character:

  • Jacob (“deceiver”) was given the name Israel (“one who struggled with God”)
  • Saul’s name was changed to Paul (“small” or “humble”)
  • Simon’s name was changed to Peter (“little rock”)
  • Nabal (“foolish”) nearly died when he refused David and his men food from their harvest after they had faithfully guarded his workers.

Run the Race

Paul indicated that living his life for God was like he was running a race.  He wanted to run it like he was trying to win.  So often we focus on the grace of God (and do whatever we want – after all God has forgiven us of all sin – past, present, and future, right?) or the holiness of God (we live in aversion of the painful consequences of when we do anything wrong, so that oftentimes we are paralyzed that if we do anything wrong, we will receive a swift penalty for it), rather than a balance between the two.

Walk Warily

These metaphors are meant to illustrate that we need to live our lives in such a way that our character matches that of Christ, and that we strive towards the goal of perfection knowing that God will forgive us when we fail.  This balance – perfection vs. grace – helps us to continue striving towards God, and experience victory over sin and discipline in our everyday lives.

Victorious Venue

And when we shed this moral coil, whether it be in slumber or in apantesis as we are being gathered up into the sky with our Lord Jesus Christ , we can be assured that we have a place at the victor’s table as we will sup with God for all eternity, devoting ourselves in obedience, prayer, worship, and adoration.

A Qualifying Question

OK, let’s ask ourselves a question – Am I living my life in such a way that it looks like an Olympic athlete seeking to win the Gold Medal for Christ-like character?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You give us strength when we are weak, and carry us when we are broken.  Help us to live our lives in such a way that it reflects the character of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help us to discipline ourselves so that we will run the race set before us consistently and honorably.  Remember us when we fall; help us to get back up again.  Provide for our every need.  And show us our new name, our new character, that we may live in it and rejoice in it.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?