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?

Sign from God – Isaiah 7:10-16

God Himself Gave The Sign – The Virgin Bore A Child

10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”

12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”

13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.

Select the Sign

In one of the most stunning passages of scripture, the Lord God Almighty asks king Ahab to choose a sign.  Anything the king desires will be done – nothing is off-limits.  What a wonderful opportunity!  Then, the most evil of all kings, confronted by the Lord God Almighty, quotes scripture at God:

Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah.

If the Lord asks you to do something, you do it.  Isaiah confirms that this response tries the patience of God.  Ahaz just doesn’t get it.  But God, in a wonderful turn of events, provides the most impossible of signs – the virgin shall be with child.

The Perfect Prophecy

Simple biology would dictate, especially given the scientific methods at that time, that it would be impossible for the virgin to give birth to a child.  But this gave God the opportunity to do something wonderful – to prophesy about His Son, Jesus Christ, who was to be named Immanuel (which means “God with us”).  Not only is He born because the Holy Spirit came upon His mother, He would be without sin.  God provided the perfect sacrifice for our sins, and laid the groundwork for His miracle with the simple request that the evil king Ahab give Him a sign.

Although others in scripture have asked for signs (Gideon being among the most famous, but let us also not forget the request of Abraham’s servant when seeking a bride for Issac…), we are to trust in the Lord God Almighty.  He will certainly do all that He says He will do, because His character is such that He cannot lie.  And God will certainly fulfill any promise that He makes.

Notice the difference in the way that people respond to God when told news, in particular, Mary’s response to Gabriel versus Zechariah.  Mary responds:

How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

and

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.

Zechariah responds quite differently:

How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

Mary believes, and asks how it will be.  Zechariah questions whether it can be done at all.  Mary was rewarded, and Zechariah was struck mute.  These are fitting responses to each person’s response.  We can be assured that God will keep every promise that He makes.  He has said so, and even the angel Gabriel confirms it:

 For no word from God will ever fail.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we looking for signs from God that He will do what He says He will do?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given us Your word that we may know that You have perfect character.  You have given us the heavens for signs, and continue to help us by using Your word to give us guidance.  Help me today to rely completely upon You, with complete abandon, for You have promised to provide anything I need to accomplish the purposes that You have assigned for me to do.  Remember me this day, Father, that I would have the courage to trust in You when all circumstances point elsewhere.  Give me the fortitude of character to believe, especially when the outcome of events does not match what I have preconceived in my mind.  Help me to trust when there is no visible reason to do so.  And may You be glorified by the faith that You are growing in me with this trust.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Restoration by God – Amos 9:14-15

God Does Everything He Promises To Do

14 and I will bring my people Israel back from exile.

“They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.
They will plant vineyards and drink their wine;
they will make gardens and eat their fruit.
15 I will plant Israel in their own land,
never again to be uprooted
from the land I have given them,”

says the Lord your God.

Prophesy Provided

There are many who believe in replacement theology – that God has abandoned Israel in favor of the church.  While there are some areas where the church is being used the way Israel was supposed to be used, God is not done with Israel.  This particular prophesy is evidence of it.

God not only provided this prophesy, but others as well, showing that His had is upon His people.  God is far from being done with Israel.  And the blessings and curses for those that bless or curse her are still binding and occurring.  The last two nations on Earth that were Israel’s friends – The United Kingdom and The United States of America – have turned their backs on Israel.

The United Kingdom is now being plagued with descendants of Ishmael who follow the teachings of the one who declared that his god was the greatest of all deceivers. Talking of the one that they follow, Jesus said:

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

The United States of America, whose President has turned away from Israel, and is even now welcoming and transplanting the very same people that are plaguing the United Kingdom and all of Europe into its country, will soon suffer the same fate.

God Gathers

Not only is this prophesy evidence that God still loves and has great plans for the Israelites, but many in this generation have seen it come to pass with their very own eyes.  In 1948, the dry bones became as flesh, and Israel, the only nation ever to have been scattered to the four winds, was once again a nation, and her people repatriated to her.  What had become a desert began to flourish.

But although God gathered them, they were still under Gentile control.  On June 6, 1967, after the Six Day War, God delivered them from their oppressors and Israel once again, the only nation ever to have done so, became completely sovereign over its land after millenia of being scattered.  God doesn’t mess around, and He does EVERYTHING He says He is going to do.  Even if it takes more than TWO MILLENNIA. And He ALWAYS does it at the exact right time.

Verdant Ventures

Have you ever took a look at what Israel looks like from space?  It is a verdant, lush country.  What was once desert has been terraformed by Israel with the help of Almighty God.  At the Eastern edge of Israel, it looks as if God had used his finger to outline the edges of the country from other land.  On one side, it is green and lush.  On the other, it is dry and desert.  God is blessing Israel and protecting it.  They are able to grow their own food, and drink their own wine, because God promised this to them more than TWO THOUSAND YEARS AGO.

Is God slow in answering His promises?  Absolutely not!  God has perfect timing.  Why now, you might ask?  Because He foretold it in Daniel over 2500 years ago, and then gave Daniel the time for it to occur and only defining the time after the death of Christ.  We often find that we must wait for a while in order to come through our issues.  But God is faithful, and no matter how long it takes, He will always fulfill all that He has declared.  The Israelites have personally experienced this.  In 2 Peter 3:8, in the Greek, a hEmera is as a thousand years.  While hEmera has been translated as the word “day” here, it can also be translated as a time.

Permanent Planting

The formation of Israel as a nation and the repatriation of its people is not just some random event, or temporary situation.  God has promised that He would not allow them to NEVER be uprooted from their land again.  Since God keeps all of His promises, any efforts at removing the Israelites from Israel will result in great backlash from God.  Nations who try to do so should soberly consider the consequences of their actions should they try to take from Israel what God has now given to them through His promise and give it to anyone else.

Ask any nation who oppressed God’s people what happened to them after God finished using them as His tool of punishment.  It might be hard to ask; all have fallen.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do we love Israel, the people AND the nation, the same way that God does?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are perfect in all of Your ways.  You have shown me in Your word how much You love Israel.  Help me to love Your people as You do.  Give me a desire to show them Your love so that they would desire You in a greater way.  Show me how to pray for Your people that they would be blessed, protected, enriched, and turn their hearts to You.  Open their hearts that they may see Your Son for who He really is.  Restore Your people to Yourself, and help me to be prepared for what is next to come.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

A Promise of God – Isaiah 54:17

17 no weapon forged against you will prevail,
    and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
    and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord.

The Bible contains many promises of God.  This one is very encouraging.  It is comforting to know that we are being protected by God against all of the weapons of the enemy.  It is also comforting that anyone who says anything against us will be refuted, for we have been forgiven all sin.  This is our HERITAGE!  God will VINDICATE us!

There only appears to be one qualifier – “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord.”  Who are the servants of the Lord?

Servants wait upon the master.  They are in His service to do His bidding whenever and wherever He directs them.  They direct their talents to complete the tasks assigned to them.  They are often given guidelines, and are expected to do the work when they see work to do.

There are many gifts given to believers once they accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Here are just a few ( 1 Corinthians 12:4-11):

  • Wisdom
    • The ability to understand the difference between wise and foolish things (think: King Solomon)
  • Knowledge
    • Are you able to absorb great amounts of information and then process it so that it is understandable by others?
  • Faith
    • Do you trust God to move mountains, trusting Him to do things when other people would normally give up?
  • Healing
    • When you pray, do people get well?
  • Prophecy
    • Do you know things about what is going on and things that will go on, when you have no reason to know them?
    • Does God often let you know something that you should share with a person or people He directs you to share with, even if you don’t understand the message?
  • Distinguishing between spirits
    • Do you know who’s who?
    • Do you sense the presence of angels and demons and their activity in this world?
    • Do you know when, if someone is speaking, whether or not what they are saying is Biblical, even though you don’t know why?
  • Speaking in tongues (languages)
    • Are you able to speak in a known (already existing) language but don’t understand what you are saying?
    • Are you able to speak in an unknown language and don’t know what you are saying?
  • Interpreting tongues (languages)
    • When people speak, do you know what they are saying, even if everyone else around you doesn’t because they don’t speak the language (and you may not know the language either)?

This is not an exhaustive list.  There are many others.  Here are eight more to think about:

  • Craftsmanship
    • Can you make a masterpiece out of nothing?
    • Or, can you take a box of parts and with a few simple tools, put the item back together without any instructions?  If so, you may have this gift.
  • Hospitality
    • Are you driven to constantly feed and attend to guests at your home?
    • Do you enjoy throwing parties and events?
    • Are you the first one to get up to pour drinks at an event?  If so, you may have this gift.
  • Music
    • Can you play a musical instrument in a way that inspires others to greatness?
    • or, are YOU an instrument (should you audition for “Stomp“)?  You may have this gift.
  • Leadership
    • Do people have a great tendency follow what you say and where you go?  You may have this gift.
  • Teaching
    • Can you take the most difficult subject and explain it to most people so that they have a clear understanding of it?  You may have this gift.
  • Pastoring
    • Do you constantly feel the need to guide and nurture people in their faith and walk with God?  You may have this gift.
  • Service
    • Are you the one who gets great joy from doing the jobs that no one else does, and is content that the job is done and done right, even if no one else notices?  You may have this gift.
  • Prayer
    • Does God wake you up in the middle of the night to pray about something that He then places on your heart?
    • Do you struggle (wrestle) in prayer for individuals, issues, leaders, and/or nations (or other things)?
    • Do you enjoy spending hours communicating with God in prayer about anything and everything?  You may have this gift.

There are over 30 implied and delineated gifts that the Spirit of God gives to us to use to glorify God and help the body.  Are you using the gifts that were provided to you in stewardship by the Spirit of God at the direction of the Spirit of God for God’s Glory?

If not, why do you call yourself a servant?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, we all fall short of perfection.  You have saved us from this, and give us the wonderful opportunity to know You, the only One True God.  You have given us great privileges and responsibilities as well.  Show us what gifts the Holy Spirit has provided to us.  Empower us to act in these gifts, and guide us in the way that these gifts should be used.  Father, do not let me be afraid of these gifts, but help me to embrace them that Your kingdom would grow.  I am your servant, Lord God.  Speak to me that I may do Your Will, in Your Way, in Your Time, for Your purposes, that You may be glorified.  This I ask in the the precious name of your Most Holy Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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