And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor has said, and the man whose eyes are open has said:…
The final prophecy, unsolicited by Balak, which indeed he would have been glad to stop, goes far beyond the concerns of his kingdom and his reign. It stretches over an ever-widening extent of space and time. As long as there is any Moab kind of nation to be destroyed, Israel must continue to prevail'. The kingdoms of this world not only will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, but no other conclusion is easily conceivable. The power by which Israel conquers one enemy enables it to conquer all; and the disposition which leads it against one enemy must lead it against all. It will again and again be attacked, and must defend where it is attacked. It must expand by the ever-strengthening life within. The more it grows, the more room it will require, until at last the kingdoms of the world become its own. Notice -
I. THE ADVANCE IN THIS PROPHECY UPON THE PRECEDING ONE, AS SHOWN BY THE DIFFERENT FIGURE EMPLOYED. The lion destroys, and that most effectually, but he can do nothing more than destroy. The horse or the ox will draw the cart, and thus serve constructive purposes. Even the tiniest bird can build its compact and symmetrical nest, but the lion can do nothing save destroy. You may cage it and curb its savage propensities a little, but it is not tamed; the lion-nature is there, and the smallest taste of blood will cause it to burst forth in all its fury. The lion being thus a destroyer, and nothing but a destroyer, it is needful to present Israel as able to do more - able to destroy in order that there may be room for the construction of something more worthy to endure. It does not become God to stay the current of prophecy with a menace of dreadful destruction as the last word, and so he makes Balaam to speak of the star and the scepter. The lion, as it rages about, can make a solitude; it can take away wickedness by taking away all wicked men; but a solitude is not a kingdom. The true kingdom of God is only gained when he gets willing hearts. The destruction which is spoken of with such energy and almost fierceness of illustration is for the purpose of completely taking away the evil out of human society, so that only the good may remain to serve and glorify the Maker of mankind.
II. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STAR, AS INDICATING THE METHOD IN WHICH GOD WILL WORK TO CONQUER EVIL AND ESTABLISH GOOD. The star, it is said, is mentioned here as the symbol of governing power, according to the astrological notions of antiquity. It is further said that the joining of the scepter with the star shows that authority and supremacy are the main things to be indicated by the mention of the star. Certainly the prophecy is full of the idea of supremacy and authority; but if this idea was the only thing to be considered, the mention of the scepter would be enough. The star is a symbol of power, but it is also a symbol of many great realities besides. Let us ask not only why the scepter is joined with the star, but why the star is joined with the scepter. The very first thing that a star indicates is light. God will establish his rule by sending the Star out of Jacob to rise in the darkness. Christ, the fulfillment of the star, has come a light into the world, a rival to-existent lights, and destined to outshine them all. He is a light ever protesting against the darkness, not comprehended by it, not swallowed up and lost in it. Rejoice in this, that the Star out of Jacob is inaccessible to the meddling of those who hate its inconvenient revelations. Christ comes to destroy, and at the same time to construct by letting light in upon all dark, idolatrous chambers and all self-deceiving hearts. The light is from him who knows what is in man, his wickedness, his weakness, and his wants. He brings reality where others only bring appearance. He brings truth where they, even in their very sincerity, bring error. There is no room for a Balaam in his kingdom. The Demas who makes a few steps within soon retreats from a light far too trying for the darkness of his heart. Notice, further, that the light of the star is in some respects more significant of the work of Christ than would be the light of the sun. We must have a figure which will keep before us both the light and the darkness. To us, individually, Christ may be as the sun (and may he be!), filling our hearts with light. We know, alas, that he is far from being a sun to many. Their light is still darkness, but the Star of Bethlehem shines in the firmament, waiting for the hour when in humility they may betake themselves to it. After all the search for truth, and whatever knowledge may be gained, there is still the sense of incompleteness; the knowledge stops with the intellect; it does not find its way to enlighten and comfort the whole heart. We can by no means dispense with the Star out of Jacob, the Star that shines from every page of the Scriptures.
III. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SCEPTRE, AS INDICATING THE REALITY OF THE DOMINION. The scepter is that of Christ's truth, wielded with all the power of God's Holy Spirit. We must have much assurance, not only of the illumination that comes from Christ, but of the consequent actual illumination in accepting human hearts. We must ever be ready in our approaches to God to say, "Thine is the kingdom and the power. Thine is not only the rightful authority, but also the actual authority." What is a more offensive sight than a merely nominal submission to Christ? How soon it becomes evident to the discerning eye that there is an utter want of harmony! Those who are really Christ's subjects soon justify their loyalty by the commotion they make among the accepted customs and traditions of the world. There is a sense in which they may covet often to hear the word, "They that have turned the world upside down have come hither also." As we read the acts of the Apostles, we feel that there was not only a new teaching being diffused among men, but, above all things, a new power. It was not only fresh thought they brought to men, but a new and gladdening life.
IV. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE MANY NATIONS REFERRED TO, AS INDICATING THE EXTENT AND COMPLETENESS OF THE DOMINION. The details connected with each nation have of course their peculiar significance, but the significance of the details is not quite so clear as that of the great common element which runs through them all. All the details point forward to a time when the Star out of Jacob shall outshine the star out of every other nation, when the Scepter out of Israel shall break every other scepter. The kingdoms of the world are to fall - the kingdoms of mammon, of pleasure, of unbelief in Christ, of science falsely so called, of rationalism, of atheism, of individual self-assertion. These are kingdoms that now stretch their authority far and wide, in all continents, and in all ranks of men, and many are subjects of more than one of the kingdoms. In the kingdoms of this world it is largely true that there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female. The Star out of Jacob then has a large work to do in subduing and transforming the many and mighty kingdoms of this world. And all the glorious burden of prophecy heaves and swells with the emphatic assurance that he will do it. The day is to come when we shall all learn that to be king over one's own nature is more than to sway the most populous and wealthy territory among men. Then indeed will the description," King of kings, and Lord of lords," fully apply, when God in Christ Jesus reigns over kings and lords such as these. The cry concerning man will no longer be,
"Lord of himself, that heritage of woe!"
but, lord of a heritage reclaimed, purified, and made docile by the work of Jesus as he inspires in the breast every loving, righteous, and truthful motive. - Y.
Parallel VersesKJV: And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said: