Monday, November 30, 2020

An Equal Measure of Faith

Every year there is a new kind of waiting to experience alongside Advent. It may be a long, unfulfilled yearning marked by deep ache and sadness. It may be the tight anticipation of a goal almost realized. It may be, like this year, the slow tread of seasons distanced from tradition, routine, and loved ones. We only have to wait one year for the next Advent to roll around. But our longings recognize the reality of the first Advent, thousands of years in the making. From Eden to Bethlehem, the Israelites waited.

God didn’t leave His people alone in their waiting. After all, they needed someone to steer them back from the precipice of their wanderings, wonderings, and sin. The prophets became God’s mouthpiece. Along the way, the arrival of a Messiah was foretold. Even a pagan prophet spoke of the One who was to come!

In Numbers 22, the Moabite King Balak seeks out the famous prophet Balaam to come and curse Israel. But God has other plans. Sending in a talking donkey, Balaam is warned to not disobey the God of Israel. When the time of cursing comes, a blessing pours forth instead. And then, doing what prophets do, Balaam utters a prophecy--first pertaining to David and finally to his descendant, Christ:

“The prophecy of Balaam son of Beor,
    the prophecy of one whose eye sees clearly,
 the prophecy of one who hears the words of God,
    who has knowledge from the Most High,
who sees a vision from the Almighty,
    who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:

 “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.

A ruler will come out of Jacob
    and destroy the survivors of the city.”

-Numbers 24:15-17,19a

Even for the Israelites, chosen by God, the Lord’s promises had a timeline outside of human understanding. The “not now’s” and “not nears” must have made their hearers cringe. Really? Not yet? But a prophecy is still a promise. And so the people waited, trusting in the same God who could make a donkey speak and a wicked man proclaim praise.

The things we are waiting for (at least those rooted in grace)? . . . Perhaps we can learn to hold them before the Lord with an equal measure of faith. 


(Inspired by Paul L. Maier’s Faithful Facts for Advent, Thursday, Week 1)


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