OT: Numbers 24:1-25:18
Wow, the donkey lesson worked wonders for ol' Balaam! I forgot what a stand-up guy he became! At least, he stayed very much in step with God's will for the duration of the story. When he didn't get the answer from God that Balak was wanting, "he did not resort to sorcery, as at other times" (24:1). Instead he blessed Israel yet again. It occurred to me yesterday that refusing to give Balak what he wanted might have been dangerous for Balaam. He's a stranger in a strange land, and Balak could have easily killed him, being a king and all. Thankfully, Balak didn't kill Balaam, though he was very angry (10). He points out that Balaam could have used this as an opportunity to get rich, but Balaam is willing to go home empty-handed. Furthermore, Balaam goes on to foretell bad things about Balak's future. How's that for honest?
I was interested in verse 17. Who is the star that will come out of Jacob, the scepter that will rise out of Israel? Balaam says that the person is far off: "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near" (17). Of course, my first thought is Christ, and if that's who it is, then that is just so awesome. It's especially cool considering all of our discussion about Numbers and about God's plan for His people. If it is Christ, then God is already beginning to reveal that to people. And I think it is extra cool that He first revealed it to an "outsider," since Christ was sent to reach out to all mankind and to bring "outsiders" into God's kingdom. However, the rest of the prophecy sounds nothing like Christ:). The "star's" actions are very physical and very location-specific. So maybe it is someone else. Or maybe the prophecy is using figurative language (Argh! Curse you, figurative language!). Or maybe this is another one of those sensus plenior deals. Who knows? Not me.
I found chapter 24 just to be quite interesting. Because my new understanding of man's sinfulness v. God's holiness, I completely get why He wiped them out. I mean, good lands! Sexual immorality and idolatry? C'mon, people! Haven't you learned? You die for grumbling! Don't you think God would also frown on shacking up with outsiders and worshiping foreign gods??
One hole in the interpretation that I laid out yesterday is that God doesn't keep up this behavior. If it is Jesus who changed the ball game, then shouldn't God be intervening and dropping people dead left and right up until that point? But He doesn't. He still punishes the Israelites right up until Jesus, but I don't remember it being to this degree. Case in point: David complains constantly to God that the wicked are running rampant. If anything, he is frustrated that God doesn't strike them down (or break their teeth, or whatever). So I'm not sure why God's M.O. changed between now and Jesus. Maybe when I actually get to that point, it will be more clear.
NT: Luke 2:1-35
Have I mentioned that I love Luke? Seriously, I can't wait to meet the man in heaven. This all comes from me reading in between the lines of his gospel, but I think he is an amazing guy with a tender heart. I love it when men have real insight into women, mainly because that shows them (the men) to be caring and perceptive. Luke cares enough about women to see them, to acknowledge them (he mentions several women by name who are not found in any other gospel), and to try to understand them. Like, he notes that Mary, "treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart" (19). First of all, what beautiful words. Secondly, how did he know that? Did he talk to Mary? If so, he asked the right questions b/c he came away with some real insight! I feel like I get insight into myself by reading his insight into another woman. I treasure and ponder things just like Mary does! Thank you, Luke, for putting that into words for me.
And I love his storytelling. The introduction to Luke that I quoted back at the beginning said that with a few words, Luke could invoke a whole world. That's how I felt while reading verses 25-33: Jerusalem and Simeon and Mary and Joseph all came alive for me. Reading Luke, I can picture Simeon so clearly as he goes into the temple courts while moved by the Spirit. I see him weaving in and out of groups of people and around pillars and tables. I picture his anticipation as he knows that God is directly leading him to his hopes and dreams. And I picture him holding and gazing at this little baby, and knowing that the infant is God's salvation for His people. Amazing. I cannot even imagine how profound a moment that was for Simeon, but what I can imagine is pretty cool to me:).
The theme of David asking God to rescue him from enemies is not new, but I did note how he mentioned their words and the sins of their mouth in verses 7 and 12. Throughout Scripture, the power of words is conveyed so forcefully. My view of other Scriptures such as James 3, Matt. 12:37, and many Proverbs tells me that our words matter a lot to God. That is convicting to me!
I am bad sometimes about not getting outside guidance for my course. That seems like a prideful fault. Especially since my time in the women's class at Sunday school this week showed me just how many wise, godly ladies there are at my church!