February 23

Read Numbers 23 -- 25

In Today's Reading:

A striking contrast illustrates both the saving mercy of God and His judgment upon Israel. Why was Phinehas given the covenant of peace, the high honor of an everlasting priesthood (Numbers 25:12-13)?

Verse for Today:

The Lord put a word in Balaam's mouth . . . how shall I curse, whom God has not cursed? Or how shall I defy whom the Lord has not defied? . . . Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his (Jacob's)! (Numbers 23:5).

Highlights:

The four prophecies of Balaam; Israel sins in worshiping idols and committing adultery with the Moabites; the plague resulting from their sin stopped because of the intercession of Phinehas.

King Balak and the Moabites were distressed because the Israelites, per haps two million in number, were near their borders. They had re ceived reports that the Israelites had defeated the powerful Egyptian armies and the nearby Amorites. And they were fearful -- believing the Israelites were a threat to their safety. Therefore, King Balak offered rewards of honor and great wealth to the prophet Balaam in an attempt to hire him to place a curse upon Israel.

At first, Balaam refused, saying: How can I curse those whom God has not cursed? (see Numbers 23:8). But Balaam's covetous desire for prestige and wealth led him to compromise what he already knew was God's will.

Balaam eventually ignored the Word of God and attempted to pronounce a curse on the Israelites. However, each time he opened his mouth to curse the Israelites, he spoke words of blessing from God. Humiliated, but determined to gain the riches and fame which Balak offered him, Balaam gave the Midianites a plan that would seduce the Israelites into sinning against God. He believed the result of his scheme would cause God to judge Israel for their sins and he would then gain favor with Balak.

Balaam is typical of some today who may know the right Scriptures and even desire to die the death of the righteous (23:10), but who are unwilling to live the life of the righteous in obedience to the Word of God.

Not what I do, Lord, nor what I say,
But what I am, Lord, matters today.
Busy with nothing we fill up the years,
Hurrying, worrying, gathering tears.
Why can't I learn, Lord, that power is within,
Why can't I see, Lord, the waste of my sin?
If I could be, Lord, growing in soul,
Seeing each day, Lord, more clearly the goal.
If I could live, Lord, discerning Thy face,
Even more strongly held by Thy grace;
So take and mold, Lord, this heart of mine,
Till it shall be, Lord, like unto Thine!
M.E.Harding

But seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:33).

A Thought from Proverbs: When pride comes, then comes shame: but with the lowly is wisdom (11:2).

Christ Revealed:

As the Star and Sceptre (Numbers 24:17). Christ is coming to reign in great glory, not only over Israel, but over all men (Revelation 19:15-16).

Word Studies:

23:3 peradventure = perhaps; 23:10 dust = descendants; 23:22 unicorn = wild ox; 24:5 goodly = attractive, lovely; 25:3 kindled against = hot against; 25:7 javelin = spear; 25:17 vex = provoke aggression; 25:18 wiles = treacherous deceit (compare Ephesians 6:11); 25:18 beguiled = deceived.

Prayer Needs:

Government Official: Rep. Thomas Osborne (NE) · Pray for your Sunday School teacher · Country: Syria (17 million) in southwestern Asia · Major languages: Arabic and Kurdish · Limited religious freedom for Christians · 90% Muslim; 4% Eastern Orthodox; 2% Roman Catholic; .25% Protestant · Prayer Suggestion: In You, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in Your righteousness (Psalms 31:1).

Optional Reading: Luke 10

Memory Verse for the Week: Matthew 5:10