A Glimpse

By Dane Neufeld

A Reading from Numbers 24:12-25 

12 And Balaam said to Balak, “Did I not speak to your messengers whom you sent to me, saying, 13 ‘If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the Lord, to do either good or bad of my own will; what the Lord says, that is what I will say’? 14 So now, I am going to my people; let me advise you what this people will do to your people in days to come.”

15 So he uttered his oracle, saying,

“The oracle of Balaam son of Beor,
the oracle of the man whose eye is clear,
16 the oracle of one who hears the words of God
and knows the knowledge of the Most High,
who sees the vision of the Almighty,
who falls down but with eyes uncovered:
17 I see him but not now;
I behold him but not near —
a star shall come out of Jacob,
and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
it shall crush the foreheads of Moab
and the heads of all the Shethites.
18 Edom will become a possession,
Seir a possession of its enemies,
while Israel does valiantly.
19 One out of Jacob shall rule
and destroy the survivors of Ir.”

20 Then he looked on Amalek and uttered his oracle, saying,

“First among the nations was Amalek,
but its end is to perish forever.”

21 Then he looked on the Kenite and uttered his oracle, saying,

“Enduring is your dwelling place,
and your nest is set in the rock,
22 yet Kain is destined for burning.
How long shall Asshur take you away captive?”

23 Again he uttered his oracle, saying,

“Alas, who shall live when God does this?
24     But ships shall come from Kittim
and shall afflict Asshur and Eber,
and he also shall perish forever.”

25 Then Balaam got up and went back to his place, and Balak also went his way.


Balaam’s oracles end with a prophecy of the coming Messiah:

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.

From the lips of one who “loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Pet. 2:15) comes this powerful yet dim vision of Christ, whose presence is not yet near but approaching. Along with this vision comes a prophecy of the destruction of the enemy nations: as the star rises, its enemies will fall.

Until then the jockeying for power and position between the nations will continue, and by all appearances the great will triumph over the weak, but only for a time. The various schemes of Balak, and all the rulers he represents, will come to nothing.

After recording Balaam’s final oracles, the story says, “Balaam got up and returned home, and Balak went his own way.” Both men recede from view and fade like the flowers of the field, the glory of humanity. But the vision of the coming Messiah would steadily grow and come to bloom in the life of Israel and beyond. We are witnesses of the one who rose from the tents of Jacob and the plains of Moab, whose kingdom brings life to the nations and endures forever.

The Rev. Dane Neufeld currently serves as the incumbent of St. James, Calgary, after serving 7 years in Fort McMurray in Northern Alberta.

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Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Malek Rup – The Episcopal Church of South Sudan
Trinity Church Wall Street, New York, N.Y.


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