Numbers 24:17 (NIV) “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the people of Sheth.”

Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11 (NIV) 1After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem  2  and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” ...9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The prophecy contained in today’s passage was spoken by a rather curious person, Balaam son of Beor. Balaam was a pagan prophet hired by Balak, king of the Moabites, to curse the Israelites (the full story is found in Numbers 22-24). At one memorable moment, Balaam’s donkey speaks to him, rebuking him for his temper and cruelty. “The donkey said to Balaam, ‘Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?’ ‘No,’ he said.” Numbers 22:30 (NIV). Remarkably, although Balaam was tasked with cursing the Israelites, he ends up blessing them and foretelling the ultimate victory of God and His people. Throughout Scripture, Balaam represents those who put their own personal gain ahead of doing what is right (2 Peter 2:15, Jude 1:11, Revelation 2:14).  

Balaam foretells the coming of a king from Jacob’s descendants, one who will defeat God’s enemies and establish His kingdom. Like many Old Testament prophecies, Balaam’s words were partially fulfilled by the Israelite kings, beginning with Saul, David and Solomon. However, this does not fully capture what God was saying through Balaam. Yes, the descendants of Jacob would be blessed with military victories and establish a geographical kingdom. But even further in the future, a star would appear in the sky to mark the coming of the greatest of Jacob’s descendants, the King of Kings.

A central lesson of this story is that God’s plans ultimately succeed, even against fierce human opposition. He directs the course of human history to accomplish his salvation plan, even using a talking donkey to correct a wayward prophet!

Take a few minutes to reflect and ask God, “How do you want to use me today to establish Your kingdom?” Sometimes aligning ourselves with God’s plan is simply a matter of changing our motivations. Balaam blessed God’s people but was motivated by selfish gain, not serving God. As God brings to your mind ways you can bring His kingdom to earth today, act on them.

Memory Verse: Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”