WEEK 1: LOOK TO THE LIGHT / DAY 4: Signs & Wonders
By Pastor Courtney Hall (Wed. Dec. 1, 2021)
The promise came during a time of wandering in the wilderness. The blessing came through the effort of an enemy to cast a curse. It’s a story some 1,500 years BEFORE the birth of baby Jesus in Bethlehem that nevertheless supplies one of the Messianic prophecies so central to our understanding of Christmas. The Star of Bethlehem that led the Magi to the Holy Child (Matthew 2:9) was likely known to the wise men of the East due to its reference in the Book of Numbers.
In those days of Moses when Israel was wandering the wilderness en route to the Promised Land, they faced many adversaries in the surrounding regions. God granted Israel such victories over these enemies that the King of Moab retained the prophet Balaam, a seer for hire, to cast a curse against the entire nation of Israel (Numbers 22:5-6). However, Balaam made it clear to the king that he could only declare that which God gave him to say (Numbers 22:18). And so Balaam proceeded to bless Israel repeatedly with a series of prophetic promises of God. In the last of these oracular blessings, Balaam describes seeing in the Spirit “a star [coming] forth from Jacob” [another name for Israel] (Numbers 24:17). His statement that “a scepter shall rise from Israel,” makes clear this prophesy portends a brilliant Ruler who will rise in Israel to defeat all the foes of God’s people.
In Ancient Near Eastern writings, a star was a common literary symbol for rulership. Yet at least some subsequent students of the Scriptures also apparently expected a literal fulfillment of this prophesy in the astronomical realm of the visible heavens. Thus when the Magi perceived an unusual “star in the east” in the days following Jesus’ birth, they associated it with the arrival of the Messiah King prophesied so long before by Balaam in the Book of Numbers.
The Star of Bethlehem led the wise men to Christ, & as the saying goes, “Wise ones still seek Him.” But the Star of Bethlehem is also a symbolic light to our world every year at Christmas, reminding us not only of the hope brought into our lives through the arrival of Christ, but also of the associated story of Balaam’s blessings. God turned a situation in which His people were being cursed & opposed into an opportunity for them to be blessed & enlightened.
As we PREPARE WITH PURPOSE this Christmas season & LOOK TO THE LIGHT this week, let’s remember that God is able to work ALL things together for good for those that love Him & are called according to His PURPOSES (Romans 8:28). Let’s also realize that when God speaks His promises, He’s not simply speaking symbolically, but that He actually orchestrates the natural order of our world according to His supernatural plans & purposes. There are still signs & wonders revealing God’s glory & His good guidance in our world today. We’ll find His signs as we read His word, follow His will, & worship together as His people. We’ll see them shining in the world around us when we allow ourselves to believe in His Word within us. Look to the light of the Lord’s signs in your life & follow faithfully as Jesus leads you today.
SCRIPTURE READING: Numbers 24:17
“I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near. A star shall come forth from Jacob; a scepter shall rise from Israel…." (Compare also Matthew 2:2)