Advent Meditation Week 4, 2021

by | Dec 21, 2021 | 0 comments

On this fourth week of Advent, we are going to leave the prophet Isaiah and look at a prophecy made by a Gentile during the time of Moses, around 1,500 years before the coming of Christ. The priest Balaam was hired by an enemy king to curse the Israelites, but because he had conversations with the one, true God, he instead blesses the Israelites. He prays over them, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.” (Numbers 24: 17ab, Read the whole of this fascinating story in Numbers 22-24.) As you pray through this prophecy, wonder at the longevity of the plan of God to bring all people of all times to himself as evidenced through this promise. Our God is faithful!

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.”

I wonder exactly what Balaam saw in his mind’s eye. An infant lying in a manger? A king coming on fiery chariots? A shepherd laying his life down for his sheep? Close your eyes and allow our Lord to bring to mind an image of the promised Savior. How does that image move your heart? What does it stir within you? Allow yourself to receive the promise that image holds.

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.”

At the beginning of Advent, we prayed through the prophecy, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a Great Light.” Now we see the light taking the form of a star. We return to the question of the first week, what light did the Lord invite you to encounter this Advent? Have you allowed yourself to receive the gift of that light? If you have, how is the Lord inviting you into a deeper reception of this gift? If not, it is never too late, make a new resolution to open yourself to receive that light during Christmas.

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.”

Shall come forth…these words indicate the presence of light bursting forth where it was not before, bringing hope into a darkened world. Where in your life, the life of your community, or the world do you see light so badly needed? Choose to embrace the promise that the light of hope will come forth into this darkness.

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.”

Jacob was the son of Isaac, the father of Joseph. He was a trickster (think of the way he tricked his father for his brother’s birthright and blessing) who experienced much hardship in his life (he was tricked into marrying the wrong woman, he lost his son, he suffered through famine). Yet he became a man of God, through whose lineage God chose to fulfill his promise of salvation. Often we feel, in our sinfulness, God cannot use us to bring His light into the world. Here is but one example that this is not true. Ask God to illuminate for you all the ways you already bring his light into the world.

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.”

In some translations, this passage reads scepter, in others staff. This calls forth images of both a king and a shepherd. Here we receive the promise of a Shepherd King! Christ is the embodiment of this promise who proclaims, “I am the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.” How does the fulfillment of this promise make hope arise in your heart?

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.”

Israel calls to mind two things. First, it speaks again of Jacob who was renamed Israel and became the father of a nation. Second, it calls to mind the people of Israel. Israel was at the time of the prophecy a tiny wandering people who did not even have a country to call their own, yet God promises a King will come from their midst. Another lie that often resides deep in our heart is that God cannot use us in our littleness, but the truth is that God most often works through littleness. Invite God into your littleness. Ask him to bless your littleness and offer it to him as a gift to use as he pleases.

Three Kings Worship Christ by William Brassey Hole
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest

Image credit: Three Kings Worship Christ by William Brassey Hole

The prophet Balaam was not the only Gentile to know of this coming king. Three Wiseman saw the foretold star rising and followed it to the foot of a cradle. Place yourself on that journey with the kings. Perhaps you are one of the kings or maybe you are in the caravan traveling with them. The journey is long and hard, much of it through desert land. What hopes and fears rise in your heart as you follow this star?

Seeking a great king in elaborate circumstances you head to Jerusalem. Only to find that the king is not there. Yet your hope in the promise is indefatigable. After consulting with King Herod, you set off to Bethlehem hope arising anew in your heart. After a long, hard journey you arrive at a tiny home to find a tiny, helpless baby. Undeterred by this humble scene, instead you fall down and worship him. Place yourself in this moment, prostrate before this baby who is the King of Kings. (Matthew 2:1-12)

Now, I want you to think of each Infancy Narrative we have prayed through over the past few weeks. In each story, people were changed because of their encounter with the Christ child. How was Mary changed at the annunciation? Elizabeth and John at the Visitation? The shepherds at the birth of Jesus? The kings upon encountering the Christ child? Joseph living through each of these moments? How has your own life been changed because of your own encounter with Christ?

In each story, people were also compelled to go and share the good news? Mary went in haste to Elizabeth. Elizabeth proclaimed the blessing of encountering the mother of her Lord. John would go on to preach the coming kingdom. The shepherds went away rejoicing and proclaiming the good news. The kings, converted by and to love of Christ, went home by another way to protect the life of the Christ. Joseph responded time and again with a “yes” to protecting and nurturing Jesus. How does the fact that you too know Christ compel you to go out and share the good news with others? Like the Magi, has your encounter with Christ set you on an entirely different trajectory?

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This