I guess we would all like to know what will happen in the future. Whether you’re concerned about your family, your job or youself, wouldn’t help to get a bit ahead of the game, if you could know what the future would be like?
Perhaps this is why so many people read horoscopes.
Perhaps this is why so many people read horoscopes. Knowing that later on in the week we’ll meet a tall, handsome stranger or have a hard situation to deal with that we’ll overcome might be just the boost that we need…
Star signs and the idea of predicting the future are, however, nothing new. In this week’s parasha, an enemy king called Balak (who gives his name as the title for the parasha) hires a fortune teller called Balaam to not only look into the future, but to curse our people, because he is worried that we will destroy him and his people. Balaam disregards God’s advice to not listen to Balak, almost gets himself killed but finally ends up not only predicting a wonderful future for Israel, but also blessing us in the process!
While the desire to know the future is not necessarily wrong in itself, it can sometimes be fuelled by anxiety and fear. At times like these, where we in the west are getting more and more exposure to war and violence, it can easily lead us to wonder what will happen in the next few years. What will life be like for our children? Will we and they be able to live safely?
But if we did know the future, if we were able to get just one glimpse – would it really help? What if it were a future of hardship, of war, of desolation? There’s not much comfort in knowing about a future like that! Just ask Balak.
We don’t actually know all the much about the main protagonists in Balak.
We don’t actually know all the much about the main protagonists in Balak. We’re left with many questions about Balak and his people, but perhaps the strangest figure is Balaam. Is he a genuine prophet or only a trickster? Did he really help our people by blessing us, or did he in the end betray us and give Balak advice about how to destroy our people? Regardless of who Balaam was, it’s clear that God used him and spoke through him to our people in this particular episode. Especially, through his final prophecy.
Balaam starts off (24:17) with a rather cryptic message (similar to a horoscope?!) about an unknown figure: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel…” Who could this figure be? Although Rashi finds fulfilment to this passage to King David, rather interestingly, the midrashic text Shemot Rabbah links it to none other than the Messiah. Israel, it is said, asked Balaam when “salvation” would come (Shemot Rabbah 30:24, implying the Messiah) and Balaam allegedly answers with the words from this prophecy. Very interesting indeed.
For those of us who know the Brit Chadasha, the mention of the star in Balaam’s final prophecy can’t help but evoke images of the birth of Yeshua. Some astrologers arrive at the home of Miriam, Yoseph and baby Yeshua, claiming to have seen “his star” which rose in the east, which lead them to him. Balaam the astrologer predicts that the Messiah would be linked to a Star coming from Jacob and thousands of years later, pagan astrologers travel thousands of miles to the house of a descendent of Jacob because of a star that lead them there. Quite a coincidence, no?
God uses the nature that He has created to speak to us.
God uses the nature that He has created to speak to us. He said in the very beginning, that the stars are to be ‘signs’ for us (Bereshit/Genesis 1:14). More than that, He has spoken to us continually, from the beginning about His plan for the world from the time He created it until the time that He will one day renew it. He has spoken to us in advance about His plan to send His Son, the Messiah Yeshua, to die for all of the wrong things that we’ve done and to restore us into relationship with Him through giving us a new life and a new nature. God’s prediction through the mouth of a pagan prophet, Balaam, is just one of hundreds that point to Yeshua being our Messiah. In reality, the future is not an entirely unknown entity, because God has chosen to reveal parts of it to us.
While knowing the future as God has revealed it to us through His Word is comforting, what is for more comforting is knowing the One who actually holds the future in His hands. What a relief to be able to give our fear and anxiety about the future to Him and to trust Him, because He is good and has good for us. What a relief that we no longer have to be slaves to fear, slaves to wasting our lives for things that one day won’t matter, slaves to “the moment”. Putting our trust in God through Yeshua gives us a certainty that everything really will work out all right in the end. Putting our trust in Yeshua gives us someone who we can give all our fears and anxieties to, because He cares for us so much, that He willingly laid down his life for us. Putting our trust in Yeshua give us hope.
Perhaps you’re looking for answers in horoscopes, in witchcraft, in anything that will give you a hint about the future. Come to the One who has not only shown us what the future holds, but who holds the future in the palm of His hand. The answers really are in the stars – and they point to Yeshua.
It’s in the stars