What a joyful Sunday! We had our annual Lessons & Carols service to kick off the season of Advent. Many families participated by lighting the advent wreath and doing the many readings (lessons) that show us all the Signs pointing to the Savior – Jesus. Did you hear a scripture with new ears or see something with new eyes this morning? If so, let us know in the comments or reach out to a pastor. Two special songs featured that morning were from Ordinary Time, a folk trio started by Ben Keyes who plays mandolin on our worship team. A special thanks to Lee and Grant Chizek for hosting our coffee hour, and for our flower guild for decorating our church so beautifully every year for the holidays!
Listen to the Sermon
The oracles of Balaam in Numbers 22-24 seem to come right out of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: the plot is measured in centuries rather than years, fantastic events occur (a talking donkey) and, like Saruman, there is even a powerful wizard with the strange name of Balaam, son of Beor.
The story of Balaam contains rich lessons and the one we’re focusing on today is the fact that he is “Balaam son of Beor, whose eyes are opened.” Ironically, in the case of Balaam, whose job is to see signs as a professional diviner, the eyes of his donkey were opened first. Only after that happens, God opens Balaam’s eyes to see! From then on, Balaam, who is commissioned to curse God’s people, can only speak blessing when he opens his mouth. He even sees the future king: “I see him but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come out of Jacob and a scepter from Israel” (Num 24:17). Since God never makes empty promises (Num 23:19-20), this promise rests on God Himself, and it will surely come to pass.
The imagery of the royal scepter is a powerful one. The word for scepter is actually the same word for the staff of the shepherd. The scepter is also the same hook that Pharaoh, king of Egypt holds in his hand. Only his is one symbolizing brute force and opposition to God (see Exodus 1-15). In Ezekiel 29:3, Pharaoh is given the nickname of “great dragon,” which both anticipates and recalls the great and evil serpent/dragon through whom evil entered the world in Genesis 3 (see Isaiah 27:1) and whose head one will be crushed forever (Rom 16:20; Rev 20:2, 10).
The scepter staff of the God-King to come is completely different. Yes it is powerful since it will crush evil, but it’s the hook of the Good Shepherd whose rod/scepter and staff comfort those whom He calls His sheep (Psalm 23:1-6). Christmas is God’s personal invitation to celebrate the birth of the Good Shepherd. As our eyes are opened, we come under divine protection and we receive His blessing.
Questions for the Week:
What’s blinding us to the signs of the Savior?
This Christmas, we too can be blinded by sheer habit of the Christmas traditions. We may put out all the lights in the house and yard like Clark Griswold. We may be easily blinded by the avarice and greed of the season (2 Peter 2:15). There are so many ways we can miss the signs of the savior! But we also take heart, because if God could open the eyes of a guy like Balaam, “son of Beor, whose eyes are opened,” he can do that for anybody, even the most blinded among us! This is why Paul’s prayer for us continues to this day (Ephesians 1:15-23): that we might have the eyes of our hearts enlightened; that we might see the signs of the Savior this season: The Good Shepherd, the King who has come to provide divine protection against the evil one. The one who has come to us to bless us. “Let every heart prepare Him room!”