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Daily reading: 9 January

A star out of Jacob. 

Something to read

And he took up his discourse and said, “The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, the oracle of the man whose eye is opened, the oracle of him who hears the words of God, and knows the knowledge of the Most High, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down with his eyes uncovered: I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth. Edom shall be dispossessed; Seir also, his enemies, shall be dispossessed. Israel is doing valiantly. And one from Jacob shall exercise dominion and destroy the survivors of cities!”

- Numbers 24:15–19.

Something to think about

Balaam is very curious as being one of a very small number of people from the Bible for whom we have archaeological evidence: the Deir 'Alla Inscription, from Jordan. He was not an Israelite, and not really a prophet of God, and yet this oracle is recorded in Scripture as an oracle of God. He was a sort of "prophet for hire", and was being paid by the king of Moab to curse the Israelites, but to his astonishment the Lord, the Maker of the Heavens and the Earth, intervened, opened his eyes and revealed Himself to him. The resulting oracle was this blessing, and not at all a curse.

It describes clearly how a ‘star shall come out of Jacob’, and a ‘sceptre out of Israel’ - a ruler. Here, the emphasis is on his origin and his power; he is an Israelite and he will defeat all his enemies. It also hints that his time was not then. The rule of King David fulfilled this partly, but Jesus’ rule completes it. Jesus is the star and the sceptre. Now we understand that this complete victory is not over a temporal kingdom or a political entity, but over death and evil itself. This, like the visit of the Magi to Jesus in Bethlehem, is a witness from outside Israel of the King who will be King over all. It is a glimpse of how a foreigner, all those years ago, caught sight of the coming King.

Something to do

Give thanks for all those who are foreigners or recently arrived participants in the communities around us. And if you are reading this as someone more recently arrived, you are so welcome here.

Something to pray

Let us pray that we can see the coming King, and that our neighbours too will see him, as we watch for Him; that He will astonish them, and open their eyes.

Today’s reading was provided by the Reverend Jeremy Bevan, a minister of the Church in Wales. ('Something to do' was provided by Christian Aid.)

Published on 09 January 2022