"I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel." - Balaam (Numbers 24:17)
In Revelation 2 Balaam (a discredited and dishonest prophet) was caricatured as the kind of voice we are tempted to listen to. He is an interesting person in the story of Israel since his heart was motivated by personal gain but when he went to deliver a message against his people, he would always fail, and speak for God. The prophecies that survive him then are actually right and true, even though he was not. It was as if God was determined to be heard regardless of the character of the voice he used. Indeed this is further implied in the story of his own donkey being used by God to speak to him as he was typically disobedient.
Immediately after that first reference to him made to the church at Pergamum, there is a nod given to one of his prophecies in the letter to the church in Thyatira. (Revelation 2:27)
A scepter will rise from Israel…
This is both a promise and a threat. It sends chills through the hearer, for better or for worse, regardless of the one who delivers the message or the one who hears it, a scepter WILL rise from Israel.
Theologians and worshipers would muse on the meaning of this promise for centuries, but it is not until we meet the scepter, the God/man, Jesus that we learn exactly how true this oracle really was. Justice, the royal rule, would RISE, in Israel. He would not just come to power there but he would surrender to sin and death, and succumb to its poisonous consequence. He would not just consummate his unthinkable condescension by dying. He would RISE from the dead. He would take sin, death, hell and all its tributaries under the rule of his right hand.
Death, which is supposed to be the end, becomes the fulfillment of so many promises, not the least of which was Balaam’s. Three times Revelation confirms, “He will rule the nations with an iron scepter…” The writer of Hebrews remembers the image of Psalm 45, as he strains to describe Jesus, not just as messiah but as God, as “the exact representation of his being,”
“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.” (Hebrews 1:8)
Jesus is the scepter of God that has risen in Israel and in our lives. It is more than enough that Jesus has defeated death for us, and that he “rescues us from the coming wrath”* but that is not all that Easter means. It means a future for the world. It means that a leader slipped out of those grave clothes to lead the world and to lead us. It means that he is meant to not just be believed in but also followed.
One day, all will see that he is Lord. Until that day arrives, those of us who know this open secret must not hide it. A scepter has risen, and we must tell everyone. The best way to celebrate Easter is to tell someone who does not know, that Jesus has risen.
We rarely try to do mission together and all at the same time and place. But Easter is the perfect time to declare with one voice the gospel and to honor the most precious Christian holiday by being messengers of its truth.
RISE is our chance to do that. Find some people who have not yet surrendered to the leadership of Jesus and take a step of faith to pray and invite them. Let’s not be reluctant prophets, but joyful heralds of the most important moment in the history of the human race. Our prayer is that God would arise again in our faith and in the hearts of those we invite and that we would celebrate the resurrection right, by watching people surrender their lives to Jesus.
*1 Thessalonians 1:10