Seeing Jesus

Numbers 24:17 “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob.”

Balaam son of Beor wasn’t a very likely preacher of the Gospel. Not only was he a religious mercenary, a prophet for hire who would speak a message from any god people paid him to represent. In this case he had set himself up against the true God and his people. Balak, the king of the Moabites, had hired him to put a curse on Israel as they marched toward the Promised Land. He intended to wipe them out in battle.

Balaam hoped he could manipulate the Lord into letting him speak the curse and collecting the fee. He had no true faith in God. He only thought that he could control the Lord for his own selfish purposes. God turned the tables on him. Balaam ended up being the one under control, serving God’s purposes.

Whether he appreciated it or not, Balaam got a glimpse of our coming Savior’s glory, a glimpse he was privileged to share with everyone else. Balaam saw him here. This was not Joshua or Aaron or Moses or any other leader of the time. What Balaam sees is not now, and not even near. What Balaam sees is over a thousand years away, in a stable in Bethlehem, on a seashore in Galilee, or on a cross outside Jerusalem.

But did Balaam really see? We are told later in the book of Numbers that when he failed to curse Israel for King Balak, this same man devised another way to turn God against them. He suggested using the women of Moab to tempt them into worship of Baal and sexual immorality. After all God had gone through with Balaam, after all Balaam had seen, he still couldn’t put his vision of Christ together with faith. He saw him with his eyes and with his mind, but he never saw him with his heart. He remained his enemy to the end.

Isn’t that all too common a problem as Christmas approaches– People see the newborn Savior with their eyes, but not their hearts? Millions will file past manger scenes in shopping malls or drive past them in front of churches or homes. Often, their reaction will be nothing more than “how cute,” or “how sad,” or “how poor.” A thousand secular choirs will sing “Silent Night,” or “Away in a Manger,” but how many will see their Savior from sin hidden beneath the sentimental music?

We need to be reminded, too. The baby in the manger is not just a Christmas decoration. He is Christmas itself. Our Savior IS now, and he IS near. At this moment, we see him in Balaam’s prophecy. This Christmas, let us see him in our worship, our carols, and our entire celebration of his birth.

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