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Balaam’s Final Oracle

Numbers 24:15a &17
And he took up his discourse and said, … ”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.”

When skeptical friends ask you for proof of Christianity, when they push and prod you to explain why a loving God allowed that tragedy to occur, or why He doesn’t seem to answer that ongoing prayer, or simply why you’ve never actually seen God with your own two eyes, isn’t the substance of every answer you give in response summed up by these two phrases: “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near”? This, again, is what theologians refer to as the ‘already-not yet’ principle. We’re already seated with Christ in heavenly places; our victory’s been won by our Redeemer; and we’ve been given a new nature in Him, a new name, and a new identity, yet we’re still very much a work in progress, aren’t we? Still a long way off from seeing God face to face in glory. How can both be true at the same time? Because God is above time, not bound by it, so His promise can have both a future application—“He Who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it”—and a present active one—“It is finished!”

We, today, look back on the Passion in the same manner that these pilgrims in Balaam’s day looked forward to it. But both the forward-looking pilgrims and the backward-looking pilgrims experience the same predicament of faith, described poignantly in Hebrews 11: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The fact is, we do see Jesus! We do behold the marvels of God’s redemptive work even in the most mundane moments and places. Our biographies are filled with Theophanous encounters and personal touches from the Most High! Our hearts, even in suffering, retain that peace that defies understanding, and even when we don’t feel His nail-pierced hands gripping our own, we find His fingerprints on every crevice of our travail.

“A star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel,” proclaims the Spirit. And whether that appearance comes in the clouds today, or in the commonplace, I pray we won’t miss it.