Numbers 24:15-25 “Fire in My Bones and a Sword in my Mouth” November 10, 2013
Maple Glen BFC Pastor Louis Prontnicki
Allow me to focus on vv. 15-19: 15 Then he uttered his oracle: “The oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the oracle of one whose eye sees clearly, 16 the oracle of one who hears the words of God, who has knowledge from the Most High, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened: 17 “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.
He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth.
18 Edom will be conquered; Seir, his enemy, will be conquered, but Israel will grow strong.
19 A ruler will come out of Jacob and destroy the survivors of the city.”
If there was ever a man who uttered a completely intolerant, politically incorrect speech, it was Balaam. Balaam had been hired to curse Israel for the Moabites; and would get big bucks for doing so. And here he was, given a third chance by King Balak to put the evil eye on the Israelites… but he couldn’t do it! Not only does he bless Israel again and again; here he even foretells the cursing of the Moabites! He sees clearly from the Lord God that Moab and the surrounding nations will be destroyed by a future king of Israel, a king who will rule with sovereign and destructive power over all those who refuse to bow the knee before Him! How intolerant! How dare he be so audacious!
Imagine being invited to the White House by the President of the USA, and asked to give thanks for the first family’s Thanksgiving dinner… and in your prayer you speak of how when Jesus Christ comes back in all His power and glory, He will judge America and smash the skulls of those resisted the Gospel?! How dare you speak like that!
But that’s what Balaam is doing here! And so we must ask…. What motivated Balaam to speak this way? And what would ever compel you and me to speak such words of God’s judgment and of Christ’s unique and conquering reign? What can motivate us to speak such truth, when it will be received so negatively?
To speak this way….
I. You Need God’s Fire in Your Bones (vv. 15-17a)
The words of Jeremiah 20:9 come to mind: “(God’s) word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”
How did Balaam get such fire in his bones, so that he was compelled to proclaim this message? It’s because of what Balaam saw, heard, knew, and did. (See vv. 15-17)
“The oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the oracle of one whose eye sees clearly, 16 the oracle of one who hears the words of God, who has knowledge from the Most High, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened;” 17 “I see him… I behold him…”
A. What Balaam saw: “the oracle of one whose eye sees clearly/ whose eye is opened,” the one “who sees a vision from the Almighty,” the one “whose eyes are opened/ uncovered.”
B. What Balaam heard: “The oracle of one who hears the words of God”
C. What Balaam knew: “Who has knowledge from the Most High”
D. What Balaam did: “Who falls prostrate.”
When it came to motivation, Balaam didn’t speak this message of condemnation and of a coming ruler because he was self-righteous. He didn’t utter this prophecy because he was a Republican and he felt he needed to take some shots at Balak, who was a Democrat. (Or the other way around.) Balaam didn’t proclaim these truths because he was some red-neck guy who needed sensitivity training, and he just loves getting attention as a conservative nut-job. No. Balaam said what he did because he saw clearly what God wanted him to see, with his eyes wide open to the gospel. He said what he did because he had clearly heard the message God had given him, and he was compelled to speak that message, no matter how unpopular, no matter how much trouble it would get him into. He had to speak this message because he knew the truth; he had been given true knowledge of the present and the future by God Himself. He said what he did because the vision he saw and the message he heard and the truth he knew all moved him to fall down on his face before the presence of the living God; in other words, such truth grabbed him, shook him, and rattled him, and then compelled him to speak the truth!
Brothers and sisters in Christ, if we are going to have the courage to speak God’s truth today, then we need to be motivated as Balaam was motivated. If we are going to have the gracious boldness to proclaim the message that Jesus is the only way, the only truth, and the only life, then we need to have God’s fire in our bones! If we are going to bring the life-transforming, priority-changing Gospel to a dark and rebellious world, then we need to see and hear and know and do what Balaam did! That is,
A. We need to “Behold our God” in all His majesty and glory and power and holiness!
We need to see Jesus as the great King of kings and Lord of Lords, as our sympathetic High Priest, as our merciful Savior, as our coming Judge, and more!
We need to see God the Holy Spirit as our comfort in sorrows, our rebuker of sin, our encourager in struggles, and as the Holy God Himself, living in us!
B. We need to hear the Words of God and let them penetrate deep into our wills, our thinking, our emotions, and our decisions. And if we do that, then….
C. We will have a deep and abiding knowledge of God’s Word, God’s will, and what pleases God in all things. “If my words abide in you…”
And if those things are true in your life, then here’s what you will do:
D. You will regularly fall down before the Lord, in awe, in worship, in amazement, in praise and worship, in repentance, and in whole-hearted devotion and loyalty to our great Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
And so as we see and hear and know and do what Balaam saw and heard and knew and did, THEN we will speak and proclaim God’s truth, to all people, regardless of the pushback and hatred we will receive. Then we will be like the Prophet Jeremiah who said in Jer. 20:9 “But if I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”
The apostles expressed the same compulsion:
Acts 4:18-20 “Then they…commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
1 Cor. 9:16 “Yet when I (Paul) preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”
Ask God to give you His fire in your bones, so that you are compelled to proclaim His gospel!
To speak this way…
II. You Need God’s Sword in Your Mouth (vv. 17b-19)
“…A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth. 18 Edom will be conquered; Seir, his enemy, will be conquered, but Israel will grow strong. 19 A ruler will come out of Jacob and destroy the survivors of the city.”
It is one thing to have God’s fire in your bones so that you are compelled to speak, but what do you say? What message do you proclaim? The message that Balaam preached and the message that we must declare is like having God’s sword in our mouth. Here I am using the imagery of Rev. 19:15 “Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.”
So what was the sword coming out of Balaam’s mouth? It was this: (Heb. 4:12) the Word of God that “is living and active. It sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Or in the language of Jeremiah 23:29 “Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” Balaam’s message was like a sharp sword; it was a surgical laser beam; it was like a flame-thrower; it was like a five-pound sledge hammer. His message cut, burned, and crushed, and when Balaam spoke, it was as if he unsheathed a sword of two powerful truths:
The first truth focused on…
A. The Star Shining in the Darkness.
“A star will come out of Jacob.” What a glowing picture of Christ! Think of a bright star in a moonless sky; a glittering light set in the canopy of night. Balaam proclaimed this Star coming out of Jacob, and his prophecy was likely preserved by a tradition of his country…so that some 1400 years later, certain wise men, who were also of the east, coming upon the sight of an unusual star, were moved to ask about him who was born king of the Jews.
Matt. 2:1-2. “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
Jesus is the Star that Balaam foretold and that his countrymen went to worship.
Rev. 22:16 “I, Jesus…am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” Jesus is the bright morning Star, and He is the One who gives Himself to us! See Rev. 2:26-28 This Star – Jesus Christ- should be like a sword in your mouth- in our praise, and in our proclamation to the world! Point Him out to people in darkness, as you would with the North Star to those who are lost in the wilderness or at sea! He is the Star shining in the darkness!
The second truth focused on…
B. The Scepter, ruling sovereignly, with righteousness, crushing all His enemies.
“A scepter will rise out of Israel.” A scepter is not the transportation authority in southeastern PA (SEPTA), but rather a staff or baton which is carried by a king as an emblem of his authority and sovereignty. The scepter stands for the person who carries it, just as British talk about “the crown” when referring to the Queen. So Balaam is prophesying about One who will come to the people of Israel with power and authority, and who will have dominion over all the people. This is a theme that permeates all of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation.
Note three examples of this scepter theme running from OT to NT:
i. He will rule sovereignly
(OT) Psalm 2:9 “You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
(NT) Three times these words are quoted in Revelation: once concerning the victorious Christian (2:27), and twice concerning the Lord (12:5, 19:15
Rev. 2:26-27 ‘To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations – “He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery’—
Jesus will share His authority (Mt. 25:21, 23; Lk. 19:17; 1 Cor. 6:2)
Rev. 12:5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.
His sovereignty is expressed as an “iron rule” in which rebels are crushed, like fragile clay vessels. His scepter is the means of discipline and judgment. Let us proclaim that!
ii. He will rule in righteousness
(OT) Psalm 45:6 Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
(NT) Hebrews 1:8 But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.”
Jesus brings justice and righteousness to the nations, and Isa. 42:3-4 describes how he will do it:
Isa 42:3-4 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; 4 he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope.”
iii. He will crush His enemies
(OT) Gen. 3:15 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
(NT) Rom 16:20“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.”
The offspring of the woman would eventually crush the serpent’s head, a promise fulfilled in Christ’s victory over Satan–a victory in which all believers will share.
And notice how His Word plays a crucial role in shattering His enemies:
(OT) Isaiah 30:31 “The voice of the LORD will shatter Assyria; with his scepter he will strike them down.”
(NT) Rev. 19:15 “Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.
Notice in Isa. 30:31 and in Rev. 19:15 the image of the scepter parallels the Lord’s voice or a sharp sword (i.e., God’s Word). Therefore, His iron scepter is a picture of how God rules through His Word and speaks His just judgment. Think about creation coming into being by God simply speaking, or Jesus controlling nature- and death and demons- just by speaking a word! What does this tell us about the Word of God today, whether read personally or heard in a sermon!
And so in summary we see that…
Jesus is the Iron Scepter who is sovereign over all people.
Jesus is the sovereign and righteous Ruler who conquers/ crushes all His enemies.
This is a crucial part of the gospel message that we must proclaim!
His scepter either delivers you or it dashes you to pieces
His scepter either carries you or it crushes you.
All of this points us to Christ’s second coming, to judge in power.
We look forward to Christ’s coming again as the fully victorious king, conquering war, famine, disease, and death (Rev. 6:1-8)
This is a message of hope/ triumph/ victory:
A future hope- not just for the conquest of Canaan, but for victory in our Messiah-King
A secure hope – There was no reason for uncertainty. Note the repeated “will” These things will happen, for sure.
A regal hope – It is focused not in a nation’s conquest but in a leader’s character; not merely the powerful but flawed David, but the Perfect King, the Messiah
A victorious hope – God is the God of all the earth and all the nations are in his controlling hand.
A unique hope – it is a hope, a triumph based not on numbers or skill, but on the Lord God alone.
What a contrast this hope is from the feeble attempts of mankind to achieve self-salvation, self-hope, and self-triumph!
The gospel of this Messiah is great and encouraging news for those who bow before Him, but it is terrifying news to His enemies, to the proud and rebellious.
Repent and trust Him!
Ask God to give you His fire in your bones and His sword in your mouth, that you may boldly proclaim the Gospel to the nations!