DAY EIGHTY-SEVEN : Numbers 23 v. 27 – 26 v. 11; Luke 7 v. 11 – 35; Psalm 38 v. 1 – 12;
Third Oracle – Balak is still unhappy with Balaam’s oracles, so he takes him to another place, to try again to place a curse on the Israelites. Seven altars, seven bulls, seven rams. Balaam has been persuaded that the Lord has blessed Israel (he stops practicing sorcery at this point), he turns towards the desert and ‘the Spirit of God came upon him’ and he spoke the third oracle:
“My eye now sees clearly, my ear hears the Word of God,
I fall facedown, my eyes are opened.
Israel’s tents, neatly laid out in order, are beautiful to behold.
Their king will be greater than all kings;
Their kingdom will grow and grow.
They have ox-like strength; they have lion-like power.
Those who curse them will find themselves cursed.
Those who bless them will find themselves blessed!”
Balak is so angry now and commands Balaam to leave – without reward – for he has failed three times to curse the Israelites. But he does not leave without his fourth devastating oracle :
Fourth Oracle – ‘a rising star from Jacob, a powerful sceptre from Israel, will crush Moab, conquer Edom, grow from strength to strength’.
Final Oracles – and as he is leaving, Balaam says that Amalek will fall to ruin, the Kenites will be destroyed, Asshur and Eber will be conquered too. Balaam and Balak go their separate ways.
Moab seduces Israel – Israel misbehaves – its men take Moabite women and sleep with them, seduced into the worship of other gods (Baal). God is angry and tells Moses to take out and kill the leaders of these people. The judges are alerted. A plague hits Israel and 24,000 people die. One Israelite, Zimri (a Simeonite) brought a Midianite women, Cozbi (daughter of a Midianite leader) into the camp, and was seen by the priests (who were weeping at the Tent of Meeting, for the plight of their own people). Eleazor’s son, Phinehas, took a spear and killed both Zimri and Cozbi. God saw his zeal for holiness, and ended the plague. Atonement had been made for the sin Israel had been committing. God makes a covenant that Phinehas’ family will forever be priests.
The Second Census – there are fewer Israelites by now (plagues etc., have vastly reduced their numbers). The Lord commands Moses to conduct a second census, on the plains of Moab, alongside the Jordan, opposite Jericho.
43,730 men (20 and over) from the Reuben clan (Dathan and Abiram, who rebelled against God, were from this clan).
Though the rebellious Korah was swallowed up by the earth, his line did not die out.
Jesus Raises a Widow’s Son – entering a town called Nain, Jesus and a large crowd see the dead body of a widow’s only son being carried out. The widow also has a large crowd with her (what do two large crowds make ?). Jesus felt deep compassion for the widow (‘his heart went out to her’ – He knows how poor and vulnerable she will be without her only son), and he says ‘Don’t cry’.
Jesus touches the coffin and speaks to the young man. ‘Get up’. He does and ‘Jesus gave him back to his mother’.
Jesus is honoured as a great prophet, and God is praised.
The news spreads.
Jesus and John the Baptist – John wants to know how it’s all going, and so sends two of his own disciples to Jesus. Their question is whether or not Jesus is truly the ‘one’, or is there one to come after Him.
Did John not know ? Was he uncertain ? He’d been there at the baptism, and surely must know.
Maybe he was still waiting for the ‘judgement of God’ he had been expecting to be heralded by the arrival of the Messiah.
Maybe he simply wanted assurances, a chance to hear how it was going.
Maybe he wanted his own disciples to experience Jesus first hand.
Jesus passes the report back that signals He is the ‘one’ : ‘the blind receive sight, the lame walk, lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.‘
Jesus tells His own disciples and followers how significant John is in all this – John is more than a prophet, he is the one prophesied about, the ‘messenger to prepare the way’.
All the sinners (‘even the tax collectors’) who had been baptized by John, turned to God, followed God’s way, whilst the Pharisees were rejecting what was before them.
Jesus bemoans the generation who rejected John (calling him demon-possessed) and Himself (calling Him a glutton and drunkard).
“The music we played for you was great to dance to – but you wouldn’t dance!
The song we sang tugged on the heartstrings – but you were unmoved!”
However, “Wisdom is proved right by all her children” – the truth will be seen, the fruit will be evident!
The heartfelt cry of someone overwhelmed with guilt and pain….a song of real suffering:
“Sin and guilt overwhelm me – I feel the heat of Your anger, Lord.
My body experiences excruciating pain.
There are many who avoid me, keep me at arms length, seek to trap me.
All my hopes, desires and longings are exposed to You, Lord…….”