What in the world do a donkey and a star have in common? The Ancient Words give a simple answer in one word—Balaam. Balaam is the not so good prophet from Beor who is used by God to deliver a very good oracle and prophecy for the ages. Balaam is employed by Balak, king of Moab (modern-day Jordan), to bring down curses against the menacing army of Israel, which is in the middle of its conquest of Canaan. Balaam, a diviner by trade, agrees to do so but must consult with God before issuing the curses. King Balak is up in arms as Balaam issues five decrees which turn out to be blessings and not curses upon Israel. In Numbers 23:11, Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but you have done nothing but bless them!” (NIV). Balaam responds in the next verse, “Must I not speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?” (Num. 23:12, NIV).
Balaam’s experience with the talking donkey is recorded earlier in Numbers 22. Balaam is beside himself as he responds to this beast of burden, which speaks only what the Lord has put in the donkey’s mouth. In Numbers 22:29, Balaam shouts: “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now” (NIV). As a result of his experience with the talking donkey and later with the angel of God, Balaam tells Balak in Numbers 22:38 that he will speak the oracles to Israel but that he can “speak only what God puts in my mouth” (NIV). The saying, “It takes a fool to know one” could never be more true than with Balaam, and now Balaam becomes the “donkey” for God. Balaam, as God’s donkey, will utter five oracles, exactly stipulated by God, which not only will be blessings for Israel but will contain an amazing prophecy of the Messiah’s first appearance through the star of Jacob, prophesied in the fourth oracle: “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth” (Num. 24:14, KJV-BRG). These words, written around 1452 BC, will be studied by Ancient Words astrologers from the school of Daniel such that, in keeping with Daniel’s encounter with the angel Gabriel around 538 BC (see Dan. 9:25), kings from Tarshish, Sheba, and Seba will begin their journey toward that star of Jacob in 2 BC. Literally and metaphorically, the prophecy was spoken by a “donkey” (Balaam), with his own donkey serving as a premonition of what was to come.
Balaam serves his purpose for God but later serves his own purpose for Balak in accepting payment for revealing Israel’s weakness. He tells Balak that Israel can be harnessed by introducing sexual immorality and idol worship among the people. Consequently, God destroys 24,000 Israelites as a result of their fall into sin, and Joshua records that Balaam is killed with the sword when the tribe of Reuben fights against Moab. No wonder Peter, Jude, and Jesus, all three, speak with such disdain toward Balaam in their written accounts. God controlled the real donkey, the voice of the “donkey” Balaam, and the star of Jacob. God remains in control today, and every Christmas season should be a reminder that God is in control of the Star of Love, for God is love!
The introduction of the Star of Love came through words of a “donkey.” Over 2,500 years later, the conclusion of the Star of Love was introduced through a short ride on the back of a donkey. Jesus was and is the “bright Morning Star” (Rev. 22:16, NIV). His arrival into the world was accompanied by God’s brilliant creation of stars and constellations with wonder and beauty beyond our comprehension. He left this world by exposing Himself to all of mankind’s sin with all of its dark, deep, and deplorable consequences. The motivation of love beyond measure was expressed to all of mankind through a Father’s love for His Son; and through a Son’s willing, obedient sacrifice for His Father’s will. This Christmas, “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:17–19, NIV). May we all “shine…like stars in the sky as [we] hold firmly to the word of life” for “it is God who works in [us] to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Phil. 2:15–16, 13, NIV).