Balaams and Balaks

Number 22.6
Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.

Reflection: Balaams and Balaks
By John Tillman

Last week we celebrated the bravery of the prophet, Nathan, who confronted King David with his sins and described the terrible consequences that would be the result of the king’s actions.

This week’s readings begin with a very different prophet—one who could not be further from the ethical stance of Nathan—Balaam. Balaam is not concerned with whether what the king wants is right or moral. He does not care about reconciling men or nations to God as Nathan does. Balaam’s prophecies are for sale. But rather than allow Balaam to put words in his mouth, God puts his words in Balaam’s mouth.

God takes extreme measures. He causes Balaam’s donkey to speak to him to get his attention. Then, once Balaam sees the threatening, angel, God sternly warns Balaam to only say what God tells him to say. Although God speaks through Balaam, there is no relationship of love or trust—no expectation of good faith.

In the end, Balaam says what God commands. This could be because he is overwhelmed by the visions or because he is simply obeying out of fear of the angel who threatened him. Scripture does not tell us.

Perhaps the best lesson we can learn from Balaam is that there will always be prophets willing to buddy up to powerful, political leaders. These modern Balaams do their best to put words in God’s mouth that are pleasing to the powerful.

There are many political leaders today who are just like Balak. They want prophets of God to come to them, stand with them, worship with them, and bless their evil practices and desires. And there are many Balaams in the world today who claim to speak for God and yet seem willing to tickle the ears of the powerful in exchange for assurances of influence and power.

As God’s people, we can’t do much about the Balaams or the Balaks of the world. We must leave them up to God, for he is more than able to deal with them according to their sins.

Instead, we must simply keep serving our God and following him through our desert of sojourn. When the Balaams look down on us, may they be unable to deny the beauty of the love of God that is among us.

Prayer: The Call To Prayer
Let my mouth be full of your praise and your glory all the day long. — Psalm 71.8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 22 (Listen – 5:55) 
Psalm 62-63 (Listen – 2:44)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about In The Face of Wonder
Mary’s powerful confession, prayer, and prophecy, shows her familiarity with the scriptures and an intimate connection with God like the prophets of old.

Read more about The Losers Who Write History
It has been said that winners write history books, but in the case of the Bible, that is decidedly not true. Scripture, especially when it comes to the prophets, passes the microphone to the losers of history.

Artful Prayers

Psalm 57.1, 4
Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me,
   for in you I take refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings
   until the disaster has passed.

I am in the midst of lions;
   I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts—
men whose teeth are spears and arrows,
   whose tongues are sharp swords.

Reflection: Artful Prayers
By John Tillman

All scripture is “useful for training in righteousness,” but what scripture is—what mode and form of writing it takes—affects how we engage with it.

Lists of legalities in Leviticus may leave us dry. Genealogical records may excite us only when scandalous details grab our attention. Histories of heroes and villains may be thrilling and inspiring, but can often lead us astray if we are foolish enough to think we are always intended to religiously copy the actions and choices of historical figures. The fully flawed and un-idealized humans recorded in scripture show us more of their sins than their virtues. When rightly read, the lives of even heroes like David are perhaps more cautionary than they are aspirational.

One of the reasons that the psalms are so engaging to any reader of God’s Word is that they are works of art and carry with them the inherent timelessness that great artworks possess. In the psalms, we see with the eyes of those viewing a play, hearing a song, gazing into a painting.  We are here to enter the lived emotion of the artists who bared their souls to God in prayers that were always intended to be performed.

The psalms are not merely a private diary of rants and ravings to God, they are intended for an audience of humans. Some are written “to the director of music,” to be performed chorally. Some are “maskils,” instructive, pedagogical poetry that is intended to teach a lesson. Some are “songs of ascents,” to be sung as one climbed the Temple mount to worship. Psalms are intended for us to see them, hear them, perform them, and to participate emotionally with them. Psalms are intimate in the same way a play performed in a 1200 seat theatre is intimate.

In the psalms, we aren’t going to be told what to do in the office today when someone insults us. But we can see the inner emotional reality of someone whose friends were betrayed to death and who is now hiding in a cave. We won’t get three practical points about how to tell someone about Jesus, but we will get to see the world’s wonder through the eyes of an artist painting a descriptive thank you to a loving creator.

All art is not scripture. But all art preaches. Many times art preaches more effectively than a sermon.

May we live artfully in the power of the Holy Spirit, creating with our lives a prayer that may be seen, heard, felt, and may cause those viewing it to join tearfully in our sufferings, and joyfully in our celebrations.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Show me your marvelous loving-kindness, O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand from those who rise up against them. Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me under the shadow of your wings. — Psalm 17.7-8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 19 (Listen – 3:39)
Psalm 56-57 (Listen – 3:11)

This Weekend’s Readings
Numbers 20 (Listen – 4:15) Psalm 58-59 (Listen – 3:32)
Numbers 21 (Listen – 5:03) Psalm 60-61 (Listen – 2:27)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about How to Grow in Prayer
Mastering the art of prayer, like anything else, takes time. The time we give it will be a true measure of its importance to us.

Read more about Prayer, Our Tent of Meeting
For us, prayer is our tent of meeting, where the deepest thirsts of our souls may be satisfied.

Names of Christ—Vine, Resurrection, and Door :: Throwback Thursday

Psalm 55.22
Cast your cares on the Lord
   and he will sustain you;
he will never let
   the righteous be shaken.

Reflection: Names of Christ—Vine, Resurrection, and Door :: Throwback Thursday
By Nicetas of Remesiana (335-414)

Do the pleasures of the world seduce you? Turn all the more to the Cross of Christ to find solace in the sweetness of the vine that clustered there.

Are you a lost sinner? Then you must hunger for justice and thirst for the Redeemer, for that is what Christ is. Because he is bread, he takes away all hunger. If you are stumbling, fix your foot firmly on him, for he is a rock; and like a wall he will protect you. Are you weak and sick? Ask for a medicine from him, because he is a doctor.

If anger is tormenting you and you are torn by dissension, appeal to Christ who is peace, and you will be reconciled to the Father and will love everyone as you would like to be loved yourself.

If you are afraid that your body is failing and have a dread of death, remember that he is the resurrection, and can raise up what has fallen. When sinful pleasure tempts you and the flesh is weak, recall that you are in the presence of a just judge, severe in weighing the evidence and one who is making ready everlasting fire. Then, sinner as you are, you will lose your taste for sin.

In your hour of death, brother, should you lose hope of obtaining a just reward in heavenly glory, be bold in faith to remember that he is the door, and through him once you are raised from the dead, you will enter the mysteries of heaven, join the company of angels, and hear the longed-for words; “Well done, good and faithful servant; because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many; enter the joy of thy master…take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Amen.

*From The Names and Titles of Our Saviour

Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” — Matthew 10.29-31

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 17-18 (Listen – 6:58)
Psalm 55 (Listen – 2:43)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more from Nicetas of Remesiana: Reflection: Jesus, Priest, Lamb, and Vine
In the Holy Scriptures there are many names and titles which are applied to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus.

Read more  from Nicetas of Remesiana: Names of Jesus—Justice, Doctor, and Bread
He is called justice because through faith in his name sinners are made just; and redemption, because he paid the price in his blood to buy us back— we who had been so long lost.

Praying Through Betrayal and Failure

Psalm 53.3
Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt;
   there is no one who does good,
   not even one.

Reflection: Praying Through Betrayal and Failure
By John Tillman

Today we see three Psalms in which David is dealing with betrayal and failure.

He is betrayed by Saul. He is betrayed by Doeg. Later, he is even specifically betrayed by the people of a city in which he is hiding from Saul.

David has failed to please the king, failed to heal the king’s madness with his prayers or his musical ministry, and failed to protect his allies and the men and families who are with him on the run.

In some ways the artistic license of the Psalms allows them to be a truer history than the books that record these events. The narrators of 1st and 2nd Samuel and 1st Kings are limited to facts and observable happenings. In the poetry of David we see deeper. When David’s response is dignified sorrow and grief, the psalms show us his violent anger and desire for revenge. When David seems confident and decisive, in the psalms we see that he is doubtful and questioning.

Today we pray a prayer, combining passages from each of these psalms.

Betrayal and Failure

Our culture favors the boastful.
(even when we claim not to)
But you do not, Lord.

   Why do you boast all day long,
You who practice deceit,
 You love evil rather than good,
  falsehood rather than speaking the truth.
You love every harmful word,
   you deceitful tongue!

May we respond to boasts with humility, to deceit with the truth, to evil with good, and to harm with healing words of comfort and love.

The fool says in his heart,
   “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their ways are vile;
   there is no one who does good.

God looks down from heaven
   on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
   any who seek God.
Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt;
   there is no one who does good,
   not even one.

Arrogant foes are attacking me;
   ruthless people are trying to kill me—
   people without regard for God.

Surely God is my help;
   the Lord is the one who sustains me.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling… — Psalm 43.3

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 16 (Listen – 6:59) 
Psalm 52-54 (Listen – 3:18)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about In the Face of Betrayal
Jesus was familiar with the entire spectrum of betrayal.
He was betrayed on a national level.
He was betrayed on a broad, societal level.
He was betrayed on an intimate and personal level.

Read more about Prayer for Enemies
Let us pray with renewed commitment for our enemies, our villains, our heretics, our corrupt officials, our attackers, and those who scoff at the mention of prayer.

Our Sins Ever Before Us

Psalm 51.3
For I know my transgressions,
   and my sin is always before me.

Reflection: Our Sins Ever Before Us
By John Tillman

Psalm 51 is a Psalm that seems to echo through the New and Old Testaments. Its phrasing, words, and sentiments are often repeated.

In Luke, Jesus puts its words in the mouth of the Tax Collector in his parable about prayer: “have mercy on me, a sinner.
Jesus alludes to it again in the Prodigal Son’s rehearsed speech of repentance.
The Pharisees adapt its language in John, when condemning the man born blind.
Paul quotes it in the third chapter of Romans and repeats its themes in Romans seven.

Many see this Psalm as a beautiful picture of how we can come to God for forgiveness no matter what we have done, and it is a beautiful picture. But before David could write this song of confession, he had to reach a moment of revelation. Before we sing the beautiful song of Psalm 51 we must hear the ugly parable of Nathan. The ugliness we see is the reflection of our sins.

Like David, we must be forced to see our sin for what it is.

David was already a lustful man—taking a large number of wives and concubines. He was already a bloody man of war and vengeance, so much so that God would not let David build the Temple. These sins eventually led him to a breaking point.

He became an adulterer—purposely seeking out and sleeping with another man’s wife.
He became a liar—seeking to hide his crime and dodge his responsibility for the child.
He became a murderer—murdering Uriah, a friend who was more honorable than David himself.
He became a coward—farming out the murder to someone else.

Before we pray or listen to Psalm 51, we need first to pray that there will be a Nathan in our lives to reveal to us the sins that we are failing to see. The reason David’s sin is “always before him” is because Nathan was there to reveal it.

In our prayers today, may we echo this Psalm as Jesus and Paul did, but first, may we seek revelation from the Holy Spirit of the sins we do not see in ourselves. We can’t confess what we refuse to see.

Racism. Idolatry. Pride. Greed. Lust. Reveal them to us, Lord.

Have mercy on us, Oh God. According to your unfailing love!

Song:Psalm 51” — Charlie Peacock, Westcoast Diaries Volume Two

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. — Psalm 51.11

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 15 (Listen – 5:09) 
Psalm 51 (Listen – 2:19)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about You Are The Man — Embracing Prophetic Responsibility
When Christians speak truth to power, we are empowered with the same Holy Spirit that spoke to Nathan. Whether to a monarch, a magistrate, or a magnate, we represent the message of the Gospel.

Read more about Confession Destroys Denial
We confess we have been deaf to cries of the needy, cries for help, and cries of injustice…Never let us rely on earthly kings to carry out the tasks of the heavenly kingdom.

Spur a spiritual rhythm of refreshment right in your inbox
By joining this email list you are giving us permission to send you devotional emails each weekday and to communicate occasionally regarding other aspects of the ministry.
100% Privacy. We don't spam.