Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March 16

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:).

Psalm 59:1-17

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!

Proverbs 11:14

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!


  1. I love how "in your eye" Balaam was to Balak ..you can see Balak getting really ticked off the more and more Balaam blessed Israel. I think it is interesting, too, how much merit was given a fella standing on a mountain and spouting words of blessing or cursing. The spoken word was so powerful! Because Balaam said he spoke for God, then he was. In so doing, Balak knew he was in for some trouble.

    Also, coming off the Esther study I caught when he prophesied that "Their king will be greater than Agag, their kingdom will be exalted."

    Agag, king of the Amelakites (whom King SAUL defeated later..though not how God intended him to ..Agag was the king Saul held onto until Samuel fussed at him, then killed him). Agag was the "father" (not directly, by ancestory) of Hamaan ...who sought to destroy the Jews in Persia. I would say the Jewish "kingdom" was certainly "exalted" then!

    Luke - one reason I love Luke is that in his own intro he says, "since I myself have investigated everything very carefully from the beginning". That says to me that he probably did talk to the real players here! He could have had a real sit down with Mary, to know all about how Elizabeth was so excited when she got there, the song she sang when she learned of her task, her birth story, and how SHE felt when Simeon was talking about Jesus.

    I love the picture of her and Joseph (they were still very young!) watching wide-eyed as Simeon and in a bit, Anna, seem to really feel something about this baby they are learning to love.

    I thought for a moment too (totally random), did Joseph deliver baby Jesus? Did Joseph run and find someone when he found out they were about to deliver a baby? Remember, he hadnt "been with" Mary yet, so can you imagine the impact her birth would have made on him? Mary's (Luke ...I am assuming writing from Mary's info) story includes Joseph alot. He was a good guy, and I love the scene of them in the temple together as "parents".

    I am just sayin' :)

  2. Numbers:

    I wondered about the "star" too, and I also thought that it didn't necessarily sound like Christ. I'm not sure what to make of that, but I wouldn't rule out a double meaning.

    I thought it was interesting how beautifully Balaam describes the Israelites when then have been anything but beautiful. It makes me think of how God must see us sometimes even though we can be such wretched people.

    I think God's initial behavior must have been (I guess) for teaching purposes. Once they get to the Promised Land, He seems to give them a little space, some margin for error, waiting longer before doling out the discipline. In any case, Phinehas seemed to have gotten the message! And he made sure that the couple really got the "point" too. :)


    It is interesting, after having read those laws, to read about Mary and Joseph giving the "purification offering" and things like that that they are supposed to do.

    It is cool that the angels come out to spread the news, but I wonder... why did the angels care? Do they get any benefit from Christ's life and death? I know so little about the subject that I'm reluctant to speculate, but I wonder if they really care that much about us that they would celebrate that we would be redeemed.

    The thing with Simeon is really cool. It makes me wonder about some of the people who seem to be "crazy" to us. Maybe they really do know something that we don't know. (Well, some of them.) :)


    Wow, David must get this "Do Not Destroy!" tune stuck in his head quite a bit. I noticed that Psalm 57 and 58 both have 11 verses, but this one has 17. My guess would be that these three psalms go together, with this one being the grand finale. In the least, these would have all come one right after the other on the CD.


    "Without wise leadership, a nation falls..." Yeah, sound advice from the leader of a nation. :) J/K That is good advice, though it is interesting in light of how God wanted to be Israel's king instead of them having a physical king.