Reading #1 – Numbers 22
Reading #2 – Psalms 81
Reading #3 – Proverbs 21
Reading #4 – Matthew 17
Reading #5 – Revelations 4
Numbers 22 – Balak sends for Balaam. Now Balak, the king, was greatly afraid of the quiet and peaceful nation Israel because of how they defeated two great nations. Balak knew that his armies would be defeated if he attacked Israel simply based on the stories he had heard about them. In sending for Balaam, a prophet who lived in Mesopotamia and had ties to Israel although not an Israelite. The two incidents in which the delegations from Balak and the two separate answers seem to be contradictory because one says “Do not go with them. You are not to curse these people, for they have been blessed (12)” and the other says, “Since these men have come for you, get up and go with them. But do only what I tell you to do (20).” The part that is confusing is why did the angel stop Balaam after he was told “go but say only what I tell you”. According to commentary and confirmed in the Jewish Virtual Library, it was about Balaam’s frame of mind. Balaam was a prophet therefore, he knew enough about G_d to honor him but he had learned divination or sorcery from the people of Pethore. When G_d calls us to ministry, everything we do, every plan, and every thought must be framed around “Holiness to the Lord”. Balaam most likely set off with the idea that he was going to get rich simply because G_d said “go” but never said anything about “financial reward”. After the incident with the angel and the donkey, Balaam had a fresh appreciation for G_d’s power and authority. Balaam replied, “Look, now I have come, but I have no power to say whatever I want. I will speak only the message that God puts in my mouth (38).” According to the Jewish Virtual Library the story of Balaam, which was written post Mosaic times, is a pericope that is read in public worship (https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/balaam).
Psalms 81 – A Psalm of Asaph. The backdrop of this Psalm is the feast of “New Moon” which is in the fall, is a joyous occasion. While this is a joyous time, the Psalmist reminds the people the key element to praise is, “obedience”. According to the Psalmist’s words, Israel had failed despite the events at Meribah (Numbers 20). “Miracles” like the flowing of water from the rock, remind us of who G_d is and the power he possesses yet, they will not keep people from being disobedient. In Malachi 4 and again in Matthew 23:37, there is the powerful and majestic glory of G_d on one side of the door of people’s lives and the other side is our “self will” with the door being “obedience”. If we disobey G_d, we are closing the door on his blessings, and then all that we do or will do “in the name of G_d” will be simply in name only. So, go ahead strike the music, sing songs loudly, and give a portion of funds but, G_d will not listen to your prayers or desires. “But no, my people wouldn’t listen. Israel did not want me around. So I let them follow their stubborn desires, living according to their ideas. Oh, that my people would listen to me! Oh, that Israel would follow me, walking in my paths! How quickly I would then subdue their enemies! How soon my hands would be upon their foes (11-14).
Proverbs 21 – The Paths We Take in Life. “What you do all of the time is what you will do in the critical hours” (Mike Krier). As children of G_d, we hold in our little hands the power of saving lives or taking it away simply by the pathways we walk in. Folly and Fury are a part of the world’s mode of operation. Because we live in the world, we can operate under these two modes or be the difference. In Psalms 81 above, there are warnings for disobedience and all of the songs we sing when we are disobedience will be simply “racket” or “noise” (1 Corinthians 13). The LORD is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices (3). You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God (16-17).
Matthew 17 – The Transfiguration. This incident is one of many occurrences in Jesus’ time that is somewhat confusing to me. The appearance of Moses and Elijah are not fully explained I have my suspicions and we have commentary. We are not told what these two men had to say to Jesus but I believe they were encouraging and warning him about the pitfalls the Devil will throw out to stop him from completing his mission. Moses failed at the waters of Meribah and in frustration and angst, he spoke rash words that elevated his character in the eyes of the people and dishonored G_d in one swift stroke. Elijah had done some impressive things in his time. The vile king Ahab the people who were caught between two opinions of who was the true “G_d” witnessed G_d’s power when the fire fell from heaven while Baal, Ahab’s god, went “Missing In Action”. Elijah had called for drought and the world of the time went years without rain; during that time, Elijah was taken care of by a river and the animals. Elijah called for rain, and rain came down in torrents. All of the power Elijah witnessed and one simple letter from Jezebel sent him running back to the mountain of G_d to hand in his resignation (1 Kings 17-19). Jesus was about to face the same challenges as Moses and Elijah. The disciples would have gladly fought with Jesus to defeat the Sanhedrin provided the Sanhedrin would simply hand in their resignation and say, “I give up” without a fight. What Jesus was about to face would require every ounce of courage, faith, and strength; the only place to find it would be in G_d’s throneroom.
Revelations 4 – Worship in Heaven. From the throne came flashes of lightning and the rumble of thunder. And in front of the throne were seven torches with burning flames. This is the sevenfold Spirit of God. 6 In front of the throne was a shiny sea of glass, sparkling like crystal (5-6). Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world (John 16:33).” John is getting a picture of what is going on in Heaven while his world is in turmoil. Zondervan’s commentary says that the picture of Heaven is an antecedent of the Old Testament “Holy of Holies” that only the High Priest could go through and not without an offering. Jesus’ offering of his life before G_d on the cross of Calvery forever purchased redemption for “whosoever” in the Kingdom of G_d and united the hand of G_d with the hand of mankind. The creature that gave praise to G_d and the 24 elders is said to be Jesus’ fourfold character. What preceded this vision was stated in the prologue “It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit (1:10).” When we operate in the Spirit as “to be ready and available” G_d will inhabit our praise and share with us insight as to what is going on in Heaven while the world is falling apart. For the saints of G_d who were being murdered for their faith, this message would be of particular interest; because, like John, it would uplift them and give them the courage to face whatever hell or fire they would face and would go to their deaths praising G_d.