Star Power

Numbers 24:15-19

If you are a star in this world, you can get just about anything you desire. Worldly possessions, fame, power, pleasure. It can all be yours, if you are a star. Of course, very few people are stars. Even fewer people take their responsibility seriously when they have the eyes and ears of the public so completely under their control. But what is true star power? I would submit that what the world calls a “star” and what the Bible calls a “star” are worlds apart. In fact, they are diametrically opposed, the one to the other.

In the book of Numbers, the king of Moab, named Balak, has hired a prophet to curse Israel, so that Israel will become an easy prey to him. The prophet that he found to do this was Balaam. However, Balaam could do nothing except what the Lord had commanded him to do. Balaam was not exactly a willing prophet. He was compelled by God to do only what God commanded him. You will remember that God had to use somewhat unusual means to do so. God enabled a donkey to talk to Balaam, and rebuke the prophet, since Balaam had failed to see the angel of the Lord. What he failed to see, the donkey saw very well. It was in this way that the Lord overruled Balak’s intentions of evil toward God’s people Israel. What Balak intended for evil, namely, that Balaam should curse Israel, God turned to blessing, that Israel should be blessed. Three times Balaam blesses Israel instead of cursing, much to the consternation of Balak, who had hired Balaam to curse Israel. In verse 10, we see that Balak was really incensed. He says that the Lord will hold back honor from Balaam. Balaam replies with verse 14: “And now, behold, I am going to my people. Come, I will let you know what this people will do to your people in the latter days.” This verse controls everything that follows, since he is talking about the latter days. That phrase “latter days” means a whole different age in world history. This is a prophecy about the future.
Balaam starts by saying that his spiritual eyes are open. That is, they have been opened by God. He hears also what God says to him. These are his spiritual ears.

Then follows a vision of a star. From the beginning we know that this star is a person, for Balaam says, “I see him.” Of course, Balaam must be referring to his spiritual eyesight, especially since he adds “not now.” This time indication says two things: this is a prophecy about the future, and secondly, that God controls the future, not Balak. You see, Balak wanted to control the future of his relationship with Israel. He wanted to be able to beat Israel in battle. There was no possibility of doing that unless Barak could call on the power of the gods to curse Israel. And that is why he hired Balaam to do his cursing for him. He must have thought that a prophet with Balaam’s reputation would have little difficulty in cursing Israel. But that is because he assumed something about Balaam. He assumed that Balaam would be able to say anything that Balak wanted him to say. What he didn’t know about prophets is that true prophets can only speak what God has given them to say.

What Balaam sees is a star. Now, in the Ancient Near East, various gods used stars as weapons to shoot at their enemies, according to the mythology. Balaam started here on a theme that Balak might have liked. But then, we hear the rest of the story. It says that the star will come out of Jacob, not out of Moab. He says further that it will crush the head of Moab. Now here we have real irony. Barak is the king of Moab! And here we have a star coming out of Jacob that will not only spare Israel, but will crush all her enemies, including the one who wanted Israel out of the way. What we have here is the continuing struggle between the seed of the serpent and the seed of Eve. Here we see that Eve’s seed will succeed in crushing the head of the serpent, Moab in this case. Literally, it says that the star will crush the temples of Moab’s head.

In the nearby time, this prophecy would have been fulfilled by David, who crushed Moab, Edom, and Seir. This is what the Jews say about the passage. But this is all they say about this passage. Some in the time of the Jewish wars thought that a particular man was going to be the Messiah. They called him “Bar-Kochba,” which means “Son of the star.” That Messianic hopeful was killed, however. There is no such thing as a killed Messiah. That is one of the reasons why it is so hard for the Jews to believe that Jesus is their Messiah. There was no such thing as a successful crucified Messiah. However, this does indeed a further fulfillment in the birth of out Lord Jesus Christ. It says in Matthew 2 that the wise men came because of a star that had guided them from the East into the land of promise. In Revelation 22:16, Jesus Himself is called the Bright, Morning Star. And, to answer the problem mentioned earlier, Jesus was vindicated by being raised from the dead. That is how come there can be such a thing as a successful crucified Messiah: if that Messiah is Jesus, risen from the dead.

Notice something else that must be true of this star: he must be a representative of Israel. It says in verse 14 that Balaam is going to let Balak know what “this people will do to your people.” “This people” obviously means Israel. What is happening here is poetic justice. The king of Moab thought to break down the defenses of Israel, when what will really happen is that Israel will crush Moab. Indeed, it will be more than Moab that will be crushed, since these countries that are listed here are representative of all the enemies of God’s people. In summary, this prophecy tells us about Jesus Christ, his coming to earth, and His victory over death at the cross and resurrection. The seed of Eve, who is Christ the Lord, will triumph over the seed of the serpent.

In verse 19, we see the end result: Christ will destroy the survivors of the cities, because He exercises dominion over all. This has begun in Christ’s resurrection from the dead. But since not all of Christ’s enemies are destroyed, it will happen gradually through God’s people. That is what Jesus says in Matthew 16, when He says that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the church. The church will be triumphant against all her enemies.
So who is the star in our lives? Has the day-star Jesus Christ risen in our hearts, as Peter says? Or is our heart a heart of darkness? Just as the sun in the heavens is actually a star, so also Jesus Christ the Star becomes a Sun in our lives when He approaches us in our hearts. Will we trust in Jesus as the One who takes away the darkness of sin? Or will we shut Him out?

Or will we behave as if we are still in the dark? Jesus Christ has arisen! He brought light into the darkness, just as at the creation. Why do so often behave as if we are still in the dark? That should not be the case. We are the ones who are to shine the light of Jesus Christ to all people. And how can we do that if we are still dark? Do we lie, for instance? That is a deed of darkness. That is meant to keep the truth in the dark. Balaam could not help but bring the truth to light. That is the way of all true Christians. John says in his letters that we must dwell in the light. That means that our lives should be able to be an open book. Anyone ought to be able to come into our lives and see that light dwells there. How many of us would appreciate someone auditing the balance sheet of our lives? Aren’t there so many things in our lives that we would rather keep in the dark? But the Holy Spirit is constantly telling us that we need to bring those things to light. It is painful. But we must realize that the pain is only in the sinful part of our being. The reality which Satan wants to keep in the dark is that if we actually confess our sin, that part of us which is influenced by the Holy Spirit will rejoice. It is quite a relief to have someone know about our struggles. I think that the two sins in particular that like to be kept in the dark is the sin of lust for men, and the sin of gossip for women. Both of these sins thrive on secrecy. They are like mold, which likes the darkness. They are like cancer, which cannot survive in the presence of oxygen. I would submit that these sins above all others need to be kept in the open in order to be defeated. Satan would like nothing better than to keep these sins in the dark. Satan wants us to try to keep up appearances, and we think that that impulse to keep up appearances comes from our conscience. But deep down, we know that that is nothing more nor less than hypocrisy. So, instead, we need to have someone whom we trust, to whom we tell everything. And that person needs to know about our inmost struggles. That person needs to care, and not be too judgmental. That person needs to understand that sin still plagues the Christian, and that the best way is an open way, not a closed way. So I am not advocating telling everyone about our particular sins. But someone needs to know. So, let us not be children of darkness. But let us have the day-star rise in our hearts: the star of Jesus Christ. Then, and only then, will we be dwelling in the light of day. It’s worth it, my friends.

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2 Comments

  1. ~Mrs.Swann~ said,

    December 19, 2005 at 8:09 pm

    Isn’t it interesting how God used a non-Israelite to teach another non-Israelite about the God of the Israelites?
    Also, I find it repulsive how Satan trumps about as the angel of light when Christ is the true -star- and God the father of lights. It is so easy to be deceived, even still.

  2. ~Mrs.Swann~ said,

    December 19, 2005 at 8:15 pm

    OOOOOOooooooh, have you seen the website http://www.bethlehemstar.net ? You might enjoy it!


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