Wednesday after Oculi
Scripture: Numbers 24:1-13 (NKJV)
1 Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not go as at other times, to seek to use sorcery, but he set his face toward the wilderness. 2 And Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel encamped according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him.
3 Then he took up his oracle and said: “The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor, the utterance of the man whose eyes are opened,
4 “The utterance of him who hears the words of God, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Who falls down, with eyes wide open:
5 How lovely are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwellings, O Israel!
6 Like valleys that stretch out, like gardens by the riverside, like aloes planted by the Lord, like cedars beside the waters.
7 He shall pour water from his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters. “His king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted.
8 “God brings him out of Egypt; He has strength like a wild ox; He shall consume the nations, his enemies; He shall break their bones and pierce them with his arrows.
9 ‘He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him?’ “Blessed is he who blesses you, and cursed is he who curses you.”
10 Then Balak’s anger was aroused against Balaam, and he struck his hands together; and Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, and look, you have bountifully blessed them these three times! 11 Now therefore, flee to your place. I said I would greatly honor you, but in fact, the Lord has kept you back from honor.”
12 So Balaam said to Balak, “Did I not also speak to your messengers whom you sent to me, saying, 13 ‘‘If Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the Lord, to do good or bad of my own will. What the Lord says, that I must speak’?”
The end of the 23rd chapter makes it clear: Balak is not learning anything from the repeated prophecies delivered by Balaam. The Twenty-fourth chapter makes it clear that Balaam, though, is. He falls down, with eyes wide open, he says, because now he sees. Yahweh isn’t one god among many that he might call upon, isn’t a deity mainly concerned with the here and now, as if there would be nothing else. Instead, this is the One, True God, the One Who brings an everlasting paradise, Who plants His people so that they live on like trees past the lifetimes of men, trees for whom water abounds. They, in turn, give birth to many more that are also the planting of the Lord, steadfast unto eternity. As this nation has been brought out of Egypt, destroying Pharaoh’s chariots and horsemen, so shall its future enemies fall—not by their strength, but by their Gods strength alone.
Balak says that God has kept Balaam from prospering and we know that he is right and wrong: Balaam has not prospered in terms of the worldly things that Balak understands, but he has prospered in a better way, as Jesus would later present: “what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matt. 16:26). Balaam has gained his soul, the greatest gift and prosperity of God, the blessedness that lasts forever, granted through faith in Christ.
Almighty God, grant that our pastors neither be swayed by our displeasure nor their own, but be so bound to the Lutheran Confessions that they proclaim Your whole counsel purely and that we may reckon it so; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.