"There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a
Scepter shall rise out of Israel." Numb. 24:17.
Jesus is here sweetly preached--but from a heart, which
never loved Him, and by lips, which never more shall praise Him. It is
indeed an dreadful personage, who now speaks. A cloak of fearful mystery
enwraps him. He journeys far to curse God's people. But when he
comes, he cannot choose but to bless them.
His name is BALAAM. His mind, his motives, and his
frightful course, are a deep study. They are a sign-post, showing hell's
downward road. Thus they present a vast expanse of profit, of which the
barest outline only can be touched.
His dwelling was amid the mountains of the East. His
intellect had there acquired some knowledge of the living God. His name was
wide-spread, as a man enriched with heavenly gifts. He was revered, as
having mystic influence in the unseen world.
Hence Balak, Moab's king, dismayed at Israel's conquering
course, thinks, that Balaam's aid would avail more than armaments. Therefore
he calls him, saying, "I know, that he whom you blessed, is blessed--and he
whom you curse, is cursed."
Common reputation thus made him more than man. But all
his outward sanctity concealed a graceless heart. Disguised in holy
livery, he was the slave of this world's prince.
The messengers arrive. Their errand is declared. Balaam's
first answer suits his fame. God seems the foremost object of his thoughts.
He thus professes, that God's will is his only guide--"Lodge here this
night, and I will bring you word again, as the Lord shall speak unto me."
And can so fair a morn be soon a rayless night? Alas! a good commencement
secures not a good end. The bud may never blossom, and the blossom may not
ripen into fruit. Many a lost one once looked heavenward.
He tells the matter to his God. The clearest answer is
returned. "You shall NOT go with them--you shall not curse the people--for
they are blessed." And can it be, that God thus communes with unrighteous
men? Yes! Truth may pass the threshold of the mind, and not subdue the
heart. Alpine snows reflect the sun, but are not softened by it.
Balaam's half-heartedness now creeps from its disguise.
His ear received God's plain reply. But his eye looked on
Balak's rich rewards. He cannot but dismiss the princes. But his weak words
betray his hankering heart. He slightly says, "The Lord refuses to
give me leave to go." Here is not truth in its full stature. The prohibition
is withheld--"You shall not curse." The grand decree is cloaked--"For they
Unhappy man! one honest speech would have uplifted him
above temptation's reach. Alas! for those who halt and linger on the borders
of untruth. The timid clippers of God's word, the trembling fritterers,
suppress reality, and so deceive.
Satan has cast a wily net. His arts succeed. Balaam told
less than God's reply. The princes hasten back, and they tell even less than
Balaam's words. Dilution is diluted more. They only say, "Balaam refuses to
come." God is now totally left out--and man's demurring will appears the
The temptation is thus courted to return. And it will not
be slow to seek the half-inviting door. Balak sends mightier princes, with
larger entreaties, and more costly bribes. Balaam's mask now further
drops. He frowns them not away. Professing loyalty to God, he urges them to
tarry, while he sought further guidance. But he fully knew God's will.
Still, regardless of this, a secret longing lurked, that he might get some
doubtful word, which seemingly might make compliance guiltless. Alas! for
those, who, while they scruple to impinge against a bolted door, seek
by some crevice to get out.
God speaks again; but the restraining rein is slackened.
Those who shun light, will soon be left to stumble in the dark. Balaam now
only hears, "If the men come to call you, rise up, and go with them." Here
is a lowered barrier. And, intent on gain, he quickly overleaps it.
Uncalled, he early rises. And so he rushes down the stream to earthly
treasure, and soul-death.
But now a prodigy bars up his course. The Angel of the
Lord thrice stands an adversary in the way; and then "he was rebuked for his
wrongdoing by a donkey--a beast without speech--who spoke with a man's voice
and restrained the prophet's madness." 2 Peter 2:16. Heaven and earth
miraculously restrain him. Still his desire of lucre will not stop. He is
surrendered to his evil will. Restraints diminish. He gains the terrible
permission to advance. "Go with the men." He deserts God. God deserts him.
Thus Balaam reaches Moab's land. And here he still pretends devotedness to
God, while his whole heart worships the idol of cheap reward.
What scenes ensue! Altars are raised. Victims profusely
bleed. The king beseeches, tempts, caresses. The wretched prophet struggles
to comply. He seeks all means to curse, that so he may grasp the cursed
bribe. He mounts the summit of the lofty rock. He thence surveys the
outstretched camp. He opens his mouth--and longs for words to blast God's
people, and secure the gold. But all is vain. As a reluctant instrument in
mightier hands he cries, "How shall I curse, whom God has not cursed?"
Surely he will now desist. Ah! No. A hateful passion has
become his lord. Another vile attempt is made. He moves to Pisgah's heights.
Thence but the outskirts of the camp are seen, and there he tarries,
courting a seeming license to oppose God without open rejection of a
servant's garb. The Lord again distinctly overrules. The struggling traitor
cannot but cry, "Behold, I have received commandment to bless--and He has
blessed--and I cannot reverse it." Will he not yield to this clear voice!
Will he not turn, and rather heap his curses on God's foes!
Ah! what can change the heart, which worldly passions
hold in bonds? Once more he seeks an eminence. He fully looks upon the
multitudinous company. Again his bad lips open. Again God conquers, and the
truth is heard, "Blessed is he, who blesses you, and cursed is he, who
Do any read, who, against conscience and clear light,
would touch forbidden ground? Balaam's case cries, Forbear--forbear! Be
firm--be resolute--at once, forever turn away. Dally not with an unholy
wish. Now to escape, may not be hard. Tomorrow, resistance weakens, while
the lure strengthens.
The prophet vexed--the king enraged, now part. Balak
reproaches--Balaam recriminates. They both are foiled. The evil union ends
in evil. But Balaam's lips speak once again. Unhappy man! he must proclaim a
Savior, in whose salvation he shall have no share.
"I shall see Him, but not now--I shall behold Him, but
not near--there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out
of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children
of Sheth." Numb. 24:17.
Thus is the Gospel preached by a dead soul. Let preachers
search their inmost hearts. Christ only in the mind--the lips--the
pulpit, will not save. Many, many show, who never shall behold, Him.
They raise the cross, yet turn away themselves. They praise the blood, yet
never wash. They tell of wounds, which they touch not. They open out
redemption's scheme, but never clasp redemption's Lord. They teach the
truth, and live a lie. They point out the source of life, and pass by it to
death. The apostle Judas from the side of Jesus went to his own place. The
prophet Balaam thus preached to others, and yet he died the vilest of the
But his clear prophecy now asks attention. Where can more
glowing terms of Christ be found? A Star--a Scepter--a two-fold phase of the
most glorious sight, which men or angels can behold.
"There shall come a STAR out of Jacob." A Star,
what is it, but a glittering orb set in the canopy of night? It sparkles, as
a gem amid surrounding gloom. It darts a cheering ray on the black pall
around. It smiles with lovely radiance on a dark ground.
Such is Christ Jesus. Where He beams not, it is
unmitigated night. It is the skies without a star. What is such blackness,
but a chilly type of ignorance, and wretchedness, and sin? Take the poor
soul, in which Christ never shone. All these vile troops there brood. Is God
there known? Far otherwise. There may be vague idea of some supreme
director. But the realities of God's grace, and love, and truth, and
justice, are utterly unseen. There is no basking in a Father's smile. Each
step is through the maze and thickness of impenetrable doubts. There is no
joy of a felt pardon. There is no knowledge of sins blotted out. Such is
each Christless soul. But let the Star appear--what loveliness pervades the
scene! So when Christ rises in the heart, that brightness comes, before
which sin and misery flee.
Balaam proclaimed this Star. But his beclouded eye
discerned it not. Reader, say, do you see its beauteous light? All, who
behold it, reflect its rays.
Next Jesus, who thus enlightens, exercises sway.
His presence cheers and also subjugates. Another aspect therefore is
adjoined. "A SCEPTER shall rise out of Israel." These types of Christ
may seem most diverse. But they have mystic union. Is not a Savior seen most
surely loved? Is not a Savior loved most warmly served? As
surely as we cannot love, until we know; so surely we cannot know and fail
to love--so surely we cannot love and not desire to please. Thus the
Gospel-beams always give sanctifying warmth. Thus the Star brings a
Scepter with it.
Experience proves this truth. The holiest man is always
he, whose soul is the widest flood of Gospel-light. The more the Star is
seen, the more the Scepter is outstretched. The more Christ shines
within, the more ungodly weeds decline. The Gospel-truth makes all its
subjects willing in a day of power. And, when made willing, they no longer
live to self, but unto Him, who governs by His love. Balaam proclaimed the
Scepter with a rebel-heart. Reader, submit to this most righteous rule.
Mark finally, that Balaam is forced to utter TERROR to a
Christ-refusing world. "A scepter will rise out of Israel. He will
crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth." Numbers
24:17. As His willing subjects are exalted, so the rebellious world must
perish. They, who submit, are saved. They who resist, are dashed to powder.
Reader, now answer, what is your state? Are you among the
happy heirs of this Star's kingdom? If not, take warning. His coming is at
hand. His glorious chariot draws near. A blessed gathering throngs it. They
sing. They triumph. They give praise. The rebel mass lie prostrate at His
feet. The crushing wheels destroy them, and from His presence they are
driven to that woe, where no Star rises in the endless night--and the one
Scepter is hell's iron sway.
Think, think again of Balaam. He had an inward hell,
while yet he lived on earth. Where is there misery like this foresight of
woe? "I shall see Him, but not now. I shall behold Him, but not near." His
eyes shall see the Lord--too late. Yes. They must open to His glorious view.
"But not near!" What! when He calls His ransomed to His side, and bids them
occupy His throne, and gaze forever on His beauty, and never leave Him
more--what! then to be cast out! Reader, beware! Soon will each doom be