A Blessing, Not a Curse!

God hasn’t changed his mind about Israel’s destiny.

Photo: Flash90

Hidden in the Book of Numbers are some glorious promises of Messianic redemption. And the most astonishing thing about them is that they come from a pagan source.

A soothsayer from Syria is summoned by the King of Moab to put a curse on the Israelites, who are about to cross over into the Promised Land. He fears being swamped by the numerous Israelites and asks Balaam to curse them (through divination), for which he is promised rich reward.

But Balaam discovers that the God of Israel, who is aware of his intentions, has already made up his mind that his chosen people are to be a blessing, not a curse, to the world, echoing the promise of Genesis 12:3:

“May those who bless you [Jacob] be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!” (Numbers 24:9)

He asks:

“How can I curse those whom God has not cursed?”

And adds:

“God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.” (Numbers 23:8,19)

The torrent of antisemitic cursing of modern Israel is nothing new, but God still hasn’t changed his mind. They are still his special family, and he still has great plans for them, even if they are not always trusting him.

The pronouncements of the ayatollahs and their terrorist proxies, vowing to rid this same region of the Jewish people, are to be taken seriously, but are nevertheless all in vain.

In Balaam’s case, even his donkey could see that his efforts to bring about a curse on Israel were being blocked. God’s plan was, and always is, to bless – not curse.

It reminds us of the role of Mordecai in 400 BC Persia who told his niece Queen Esther:

“If you do not stand up for your people, others will do it. But you and your father’s family will perish.” (Esther 4:14, my paraphrase)

But like Cyrus, another pagan king God used to help Israel, Balaam also blessed the seed of Abraham by announcing the promise of a Messiah to save them:

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob: a sceptre will rise out of Israel…” (Numbers 24:17)

The star of Bethlehem ultimately led the wise men from the east to the new-born ruler who would change the world from top to bottom and inside out. The calendar followed by most of us all hinges on the day our precious Lord came to tabernacle (or live) among us and then die on the cross for our sins.

The mind-boggling wonder of it all – that the God of the universe should take on human flesh and allow himself to be cruelly tortured while dying in our place, taking the punishment we deserved. Here was the ultimate blessing for Israel and the nations – the pearl of great price, where Jesus shines with glorious splendour, for which we are invited to exchange all our worldly treasures.

But God deals with names, not just numbers – the Book of Numbers is so called because it deals much with censuses. And all the hairs on your head are numbered. You are very precious to him.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Zaffre, 2018) is based on the true story of a man who survived three years in a brutal concentration camp against all the odds. Although a Jew himself, he was given the job of tattooing numbers on new arrivals. He knew, however, that he was not dealing with numbers, but with precious people who just happened to include his future wife.

When we curse Jews in this way, it surely amounts to cursing Jesus, for they are his people. He came through them, and for them! (John 1:11) And as he said to the Samaritan woman:

“Salvation is of the Jews.” (John 4:22)

If we curse the Jews, we deny our means of salvation. The Nazis did this, and Islamic fundamentalists and others continue the diabolical trend, in many cases preferring to deny that the Holocaust ever took place, a shocking example of fake news rapidly gaining ground in the minds of many.

But it’s easy to point a finger. What the Nazis did to the Jews, we have all done to Jesus by nailing him to the cross. It is a mistake to conclude that the Jews in general, and their religious leaders in particular, should take the lion’s share of blame for his crucifixion. For it was your sin, and my sin, that put him there. The prophet Isaiah made this clear:

“He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

And perhaps with future accusations of Jews as ‘Christ-killers’ in mind, Isaiah adds:

“Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer…” (Isa 53:10)

He was the fulfilment of the Passover Lamb sacrificed for the sins of his people, by whose blood (marked on the door of their houses) the ancient Israelites were spared death of their first-born and freed from slavery. He redeemed us from the curse of the law, which condemns, by becoming a curse for us, for it is written:

“Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13, Deuteronomy 21:23)

Now we are freed from slavery to sin and inheritors of eternal life.

But the curse that Balaam (and his successors) tried to inflict on the chosen people is rendered null and void. For all who bless the seed of Abraham and put their trust in the Jewish Saviour will themselves be blessed. But a curse remains for all who refuse God’s offer of salvation. Choose this day whom you will serve.

 


 

Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com; To the Jew FirstA Nation Reborn, and King of the Jews, all available from Christian Publications International.

 

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