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  • Writer's picturePastor Hans Fiene

Matins Devotions: May 21-24, 2024

TUESDAY


The wild thing about our reading from Numbers today is that Balaam doesn’t freak out when his donkey starts talking to him. Why not? Why doesn’t he scream and run away like we would? Why does he have a calm conversation with the beast? 


Well, as I said yesterday, Balaam is a kind of spiritual mercenary. Though he recognizes the true God, Yahweh, he has spent his life playing around with false gods, with demons, with the power of the devil. And so, this is most likely not the first time that Balaam has spoken with beasts that shouldn’t be able to talk. In his world, it’s natural to encounter the supernatural. Maybe we should start viewing things that way.


Talk to Christians from Haiti about what they’ve seen in voodoo rituals and it will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Talk to Christians in Madagascar about the kind of demonic activity they’ve seen manifesting in the world, and you’ll tremble. And as the western world continues to toss aside the name of Jesus, and as those who have forgotten their Lord forget to keep their distance from the devil and his angels, we should probably expect these things to become more common. Demonic possession, demons speaking through people, through animals, you name it.


So we should get used to it but not get comfortable with it. We should always keep our distance from the demonic, from all sorts of rituals that seek to commune with spirit, to access secret, hidden knowledge. And yet, when we perceive these things in the world, we shouldn’t fear. 

As the miracle of Balaam’s speaking donkey once again shows, demons have no more power than God allows. And whatever they can do, God can do better. God spoke through Balaam’s donkey not to devour Balaam, but to show him His glory.


So when you encounter the demonic, let the thrashing and howling of the demons remind you of what you already know: the Son of God is yours. He has wrapped you in His glory, wrapped you in His mercy and forgiveness. He has clothed you in the eternal victory that no writhing demon can ever take away.


WEDNESDAY


Wealth, power, and anger all drive men mad, often in the same way. When you’ve always been able to use your money to get what you want in life, when you can buy people’s affection and pay to drive people out of your life, it’s very easy to convince yourself that God is no different from anyone else when He stands against you. You can hire the right people to fix the problem. Same with power. When your control over men is so profound that you can command them where to go and what to do and say, you imagine that you can do the same thing for God. 


Likewise with anger. When you burn with rage, you often imagine you can transfer the sins of your heart on to the one who has seen those sins. You foolishly imagine that your desire to hurt someone must be proportional to your ability to hurt them. So it is with Judas, who knows that Jesus is the Son of God, but blinded by his anger, thinks he can exile the Son of God from his life.


This is what we see Balak, king of Moab, doing in our reading from Numbers today. But God is not like men. He can’t be bought. He can’t be overpowered. He can’t be hacked to pieces by rage. Even when the Son of God allowed Himself to be hacked to pieces, His Father was always going to close His wounds and clothe Him with victory. So don’t trust in your money to rescue you when you’ve broken the commandments that no amount of currency can piece back together. Don’t trust in your power when you go to war with the God who can melt every one one of your weapons with a breath from His mouth. Don’t trust in your anger when you want to escape the condemnation of the God whose wrath will always burn hotter than yours.


Instead, trust in Christ, the one who shed His blood and won eternal life for you. Trust Christ, the one who has sworn to give all His brothers the endless wealth of heaven as an inheritance. Trust Christ, the one who has used every ounce of His power not to destroy you, but to heal you, to restore you, to make you new and welcome you into His arms. Trust Christ, who took every ounce of His burning wrath and poured it out not on you but on the skull of the serpent.


THURSDAY


When the King of Moab pressed Balaam to curse the Israelites for him, the God of Israel spoke through Balaam and prophesied Moab’s destruction. “A star shall come out of Jacob, a scepter shall rise out of Israel,” Balaam says. And what will this king do? He will crush the very Moabites who now seek to destroy him. He will crush the Edomites, and all the enemies of His people. 


And certainly the enemies of Israel would receive a taste of that crushing in their generation and the generations to come. They would be crushed by God working through the armies of Israel. That would happen in the days of Moses, in the days of Joshua, in the days of the Judges. When the people of God cried out for rescue, He would give them rescue by the power of their sword. But the greater victory was to come.


One day the King of Kings would arrive, His birth announced by a star in the sky, as Balaam prophesied, and the wise men seem to have known. And that Savior, that scepter-wielding King, He would win the ultimate victory. But He would win that victory not with the sword of violence but the word of mercy. He would win that victory not by shedding the blood of His enemies, but by shedding His blood for them. 


The Lord conquers nations not to kill them, but to claim them, to breathe life back into their lifeless corpses with the word of salvation, with the waters of baptism, with the feast of His body and blood. So today the King invites you to rise from the battlefield where you were conquered by His forgiveness. He invites you to rise with your sins dead at your feet, to leap into His arms, and to become an eternal heir of His kingdom. The Star is risen, the King is here. Come join Him.


FRIDAY


Moses was allowed to look upon the promised land, but could not enter it. Joshua did. Moses, the man whose name means “drawn out” because he was taken out of the river, could lead his people to the brink of the kingdom. But he couldn’t cross the River Jordan. Moses couldn’t. But Joshua, the one whose name means “Savior” could and did. 


And all of this happened because Moses was a figure of the law. The law could show you the way to salvation. It could show you what happened if you kept the commandments, if you lived a perfect life. The law could show you salvation. But it couldn’t deliver it. It couldn’t give you the obedience you needed. The commandments could tell you what to do, but could not give you the power to do it. 


And so, in the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law to be our Savior In the fullness of time, God sent His Son, also named Joshua, Yeshua, Jesus, to give us the salvation we could not earn, which is exactly what He has done. He went to Calvary, and with His nail-pierced hands, destroyed our sins and gave us His righteousness. On the third day, He rose from the grave, proclaiming to us that God had accepted the sacrifice, that He had indeed credited His Son’s perfect obedience to us.


And so now, through the waters of our baptism, the new Joshua has done what Moses couldn’t. He has led us across the river of renewal of the Holy Spirit into His kingdom. He has welcomed us into the new Eden, the kingdom of God’s undying favor, where we will dwell with Him forever.

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