Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.
Reading 1 - Num 24:17-19
"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. Edom will be conquered;
Seir, his enemy, will be conquered, but Israel will grow strong. A ruler will
come out of Jacob and destroy the survivors of the city" (Num
Balaam's prediction concerns the rise of David and the Davidic
kingdom. The "star" refers to David -- who struck down the Moabites (Num 24:17;
2Sa 8:2) and the Edomites (Num 24:18; 2Sa 8:13,14; 1Ki 11:15,16; 1Ch 18:12,13).
Thus, under David, Israel prospered and the nations round about were subjugated
and often had to bring tribute (eg, 2Sa 8:2,6).
But, the prophecy cannot be exhausted at this point, for David
did not completely destroy Moab and Edom, with the result that later writers
would be free to use this imagery to speak of the one who would come and deal
ultimately with the enemies of God.
The use of the term "star" does more than point to a ruler; it
also connects that ruler with heaven. The birth of Jesus was connected with
heavenly signs (Mat 2:2), and one of his titles is "the bright Morning Star"
(Luk 1:78-79; Rev 22:16) -- used in connection with his descent from the line of
David. When he returns from heaven to conquer the enemies of God, and to set up
God's kingdom, his advent will be accompanied by other signs in the heavens (Mat
24:29,30; Mark 13:24,25).
Reading 2 - Pro 17:3
"The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the
LORD tests the heart" (Pro 17:3).
"In the work here mentioned the object is to clear away the
dross whether in the fining of metals or of human hearts, but the proverb does
not suggest that there is a perfect analogy. Rather does it imply a difference.
Metals may be purified by men with fining pot and furnace, but the heart can
only be tried and cleansed by God. The process of fining is far more complex and
wonderful than anything that can be effected with metals. It is not merely a
matter of removing dross, but something quite new has to be introduced; new
hopes, new desires and in fact 'newness of life' " (Islip Collyer, "Principles
Reading 3 - Eph 5:20
"Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything" (Eph
"Be thankful. Be intensely thankful. Be continuously thankful
-- every moment. We can never be thankful enough: we just do not have the
physical and mental capacity to be as thankful as we should. No matter how bad
or sad our circumstances may be, there are always grounds for more thankfulness
than we are humanly able to feel or express. Being thankful has many practical
values. It is wholesome. It is healthy. It is therapeutic. It refreshes and
clears and invigorates the mind. It wonderfully flushes out the rubbish and the
petty cares. It is an automatic antidote to much foolishness and fleshliness. No
one can be thankful and lonely at the same time; or thankful and angry; or
thankful and self-pitying -- not if it is true, deep, spiritual thankfulness.
Thankfulness is a powerful incentive to do what is right, and to resist what is
wrong. It is a major ingredient of our love for God. It is a wonderful
remembrancer -- keeping the mind fixed on God and His goodness. 'Give thanks
ALWAYS for ALL things' -- for the 'bad' as well as the 'good,' for all is part
of a deep and wise Divine Purpose that is training us for Eternity, and leading
us to Life" (GV Growcott).