Advent II Midweek (Numbers 23:13-26)

“Israel has the assurance of God’s unfailing promises”

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. In a world of sin, failings, decay, and death, God reveals Himself through His promises.  This was true from the moment our first parents brought sin and death into the world. The Lord was right there, promising a Seed who would crush the Serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15 NKJV).

He made a promise to Abram, that in him and the seed which would come from his own body, that God would bring blessing to all the families of the earth (see Gen. 12:1-3, Gen. 15:1-6).  He had also promised that Abraham’s offspring would inherit the land of Canaan, that “I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.” (Exodus 33:2)

And these things God was going to do.  He does not make a promise only to change His mind later.  As He later says, “I the Lord do not change, therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Mal. 3:6)

And they sure put that to the test.  Time and time again, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob doubted that God’s promise would come to pass.  Abram had a child with Hagar to speed things along; Isaac favored the wrong son; Jacob swindled his brother Esau out of his birthright and blessing; and the sons of Jacob were too busy being jealous of their younger brother Joseph that were plotting murder rather than wonder through which of them God’s promised Seed would come.

Even here, while the sons of Israel wander in the desert—easy pickings for for-hire prophets and wicked kings—they were so busy complaining about how things were better in Egypt.  When God started to give them rules to live by, they quickly turned away from them and built a graven calf. When Moses sent twelve spies to get a look at the Promised Land, ten of them came back with the news that they could never dispossess the people because they were too big (Numbers 13).

But did Jacob’s unfaithfulness change the Lord’s purpose?  No. Even after the golden calf and the wicked spies, and the fiery serpents (Num. 21) (on and on), God was unmoved in what He had proposed to do.  He is not called the Sovereign for no purpose. He would use Israel to bring the Savior promised to Abraham and Adam and Eve, to all the families of the earth.

Balak, who doesn’t know God, refused to acknowledge this.  He sets up another sacrifice, asks Balaam to speak to God again—like a child begging her mother for candy after mom’s already said ‘no.’  God will not be thwarted by the unfaithfulness of men, nor will he be brow-beaten into submitting to our will.

But just saying that God’s promises are forever done, and that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Rom. 11:29)  How is it possible that we see so much of the opposite of what God promises?

Often what our eyes see can discourage and cause us to doubt.  Sadly, the one we often doubt in these times is God.

He makes promises to us in His Word—“Go and make disciples…baptizing and teaching them…and lo! I am with you always.” (Matt. 28:19-20)  So, we parents bring our children to the saving waters of baptism, we raise them in the faith, we take them to church, they confess their faith in the excitement and nervousness of Confirmation Day.  And then what? Sometimes parents become burned out and don’t see a reason to maintain such rigorous attendance. Maybe the child gets their drivers’ license and sees that staying out late with their unchurched friends leaves them too exhausted (or ashamed) to come to church very often—if at all.

Parents cry to God and say, “Didn’t you promise in Provers 22, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.’?”  That’s where we’re wrong. Proverbs does not contain things God swears to do; it’s an instruction book for the faithful to learn how God orders and directs our lives.

Take another example: Think of how many people take marriage vows.  Men and women make life-long promises to be with each other in sickness and health, for richer and poorer, and to forsake all others till death do they part.  Then consider the horrendous divorce rates. Who has failed there? Should we blame God for instituting a union that people can’t live up to? That’s absurd. Should we shun the whole estate and just shack up and call each other husband and wife without the formalities?  God forbid! It’s human unfaithfulness, human hardness of heart that overturns those lifelong vows.

Along the same lines, it’s human unfaithfulness that appears to overturn the promises of God.  Unbelief considers the promise and power of God to be void, and that’s exactly what it receives. 

But for the humble, trembling heart that trusts in God and longs for Him to act, He will vindicate you.  The gift of faith clings to what God has spoken—however different from today’s reality or our own experience it might be.  God promises in Psalm 91: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (1-2, 15-16)  He promises, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Ps. 50:15).  He promises, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 18:18)  He promises, “that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39)

Beloved in the Lord, God is faithful and He will not fail you if your trust is in Him.  By the power of His Holy Spirit, may He keep us always in this faith unto life everlasting!

In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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