Archive for the ‘Numbers 24’ Tag

Devotion for January 9, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Biblical World

Above:  Map of Ancient Israel

Image Source = Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The Glory of God, Filling the Earth, Part II

JANUARY 9, 2022


The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20


The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 24:15-19

Psalm 72

Luke 1:67-79


May his rule extend from sea to sea,

from the river to the ends of the earth.

–Psalm 72:8, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley


Balaam was a Hebrew prophet who consented to prophesy for hire, to say what his new, temporary employer wanted him to say.  At the time many people thought that blessings and curses had power, so, in the context of Numbers 24, Balaam’s words mattered.  God worked through Balaam, much to the chagrin of the prophet’s temporary employer.  The Hebrews, Balaam proclaimed, would rule the Transjordan region.  That prophecy might have been an addition to the original story of Balaam (complete with the talking donkey), for, at the time of King David, the Kingdom of Israel conquered Moab and Edom.  If the prophecy in question is of later origin, my point remains unaltered.  That point is that, according to the text, the Hebrews would triumph over their enemies and that the closest thing to the Kingdom of God on the Earth would win its battles.

The hope for a literal Kingdom of God on the Earth is ancient.  Many authors of the Hebrew Scriptures echoed it repeatedly, as in Psalm 72, a coronation text.  In time the aspirations of Psalm 72 became messianic.  The prophecy of Zechariah in Luke 1:67-79 fit in well with the desire for a different world order.

My reading in Biblical studies has taught me much about the Kingdom of God.  It has been partially present on the Earth for a long time.  Attempting (as I have done) to identify how long the Kingdom of God has been present on the Earth is probably not the best intellectual exercise to undertake, for, strictly speaking, God has not, at any point in the human past, been closer to or farther away from us than at any other point in the human past.  The Kingdom of God, therefore, has not been nearer to us or more distant from us at any point of time than at another.  Nevertheless, we await the fully unveiled Kingdom of God.

As we wait for, as members of many preceding generations have awaited the fully realized Kingdom of God, may we never lose sight of the partially realized Kingdom of God among us and our roles in it.  May we love our fellow human beings as we love ourselves.  May we put away fear, hatred, bigotry, and everything else that separates us from accomplishing the goal of beloved community.  May we respect the image of God in each other then act accordingly.  Whenever we help the least of those among us we aid Christ.  Likewise, whenever we refuse to help the least of those among us, we refused to aid Christ.









Third Week of Advent: Monday   10 comments

Above: A Catacombs Image of Jesus

The Authority of Jesus

DECEMBER 13, 2021


Numbers 24:1-7, 15-17a (Revised English Bible):

But now that Balaam knew that the LORD wished him to bless Israel, he did not go and resort to divination as before.  He turned towards the desert, and before his eyes he saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe; and, the spirit of God coming on him, he uttered his oracle:

The word of Balaam son of Beor,

the word of the man whose sight is clear,

the word of him who hears the words of God,

who with opened eyes sees in a trance

the vision from the Almighty;

Jacob, how fair are your tents,

Israel, your encampments,

like long palm groves,

like gardens by a river,

like aloe trees planted by the LORD,

like cedars beside the waters!

The water in his vessels shall overflow,

and his seed shall be like great waters,

so that his king may be taller than Agag,

and his kingdom lifted high….

Then he uttered his oracle:

The word of Balaam son of Beor,

the word of the man whose sight is clear,

the word of him who hears the words of God,

who shares the knowledge of the Most High,

who with opened eyes sees in a trance

the vision from the Almighty:

I see him, but now now;

I behold him, but not near:

a star will come forth out of Jacob,

a comet will arise from Israel….

Psalm 25:1-7 (Revised English Bible):

LORD my God, to you I lift up my heart.

In you I trust:  do not let me be put to shame,

do not let my enemies exult over me.

No one whose enemies exult over me.

No one whose hope is in you is put to shame;

but shame comes to all who break faith without cause.

Make your paths known to me, LORD;

teach me your ways.

Lead me by your faithfulness and teach me,

for you are God my saviour;

in you I put my hope all day long.

Remember, LORD, your tender care and love unfailing,

for they are from of old.

Do not remember the offences of my youth,

but remember me in your unfailing love,

in accordance with your goodness, LORD.

Matthew 21:23-27 (Revised English Bible):

He [Jesus] entered the temple, and, as he was teaching, the chief priests and elders of the nation came up to him and asked:

By what authority are you acting like this?  Who gave you this authority?

Jesus replied,

I also have a question for you.  If you answer it, I will tell you by what authority I act.  The baptism of John:  was it from God, or from men?

This set them arguing among themselves:

If we say, ‘From God,’ we will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’  But if we say, ‘From men,’ we are afraid of the people’s reaction, for they all take John for a prophet.

So they answered,

We do not know.

And Jesus said,

Then I will not tell you either by what authority I act.

The Collect:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.


There was no separation of religion and state in First Century C.E. Judea.  The Roman Empire occupied the Jewish homeland, and competing Jewish sects assumed positions relative to collaborating with the Imperium.  The Temple at Jerusalem was the seat of collaboration, and next door a Roman fortress towered over that complex.  The politics of architecture was impossible to miss.

So Jesus maneuvered a political minefield for years.  (His crucifixion occurred in this historical and social context.)   The Gospels record that religious authority figures asked Jesus questions designed to entrap him and thereby to get him in trouble with the common people or the Roman imperial government.  Yet Jesus, being intelligent and perceptive, understood these facts and answered artfully.  This day’s Gospel reading tells of such an occasion.

The authority of Jesus came from God, of course.  This authority is unassailable, a fact that has not prevented people from attacking it.  Yet the good news is this:  God has won.  God wins.  God will continue to win.

Thanks be to God!


Written on June 1, 2010