Who are the Friends and Enemies of God?

The Weekly Daily Office Lectionary For Proper 8, 2018.

This series of reflections seeks to foster a deeper and regular prayer life in the Church and to encourage daily prayerful reading of the Holy Scriptures. The Daily Office of Morning, Noonday, Evening, and Compline prayer starts on page 34 in the Book of Common Prayer, and the list of daily Scripture readings begins on page 934. Individuals and Families who wish to use a short one page version of the Daily Office should start on page 136.

 

I have come to you now, but do I have power to say just anything? The word God puts in my mouth, that is what I must say. (Numbers 22:38)

In the Old and New Testament readings this week, we have an interesting confrontation between the supposed “enemies” of God and the “friends” of God. The Old Testament passages center on the amazing story of the non-Israelite visionary Balaam, who is asked by Balak, the king of Moab (modern day Jordan), to curse the Israelites who are encamped on the edge of his territory. In the New Testament selections we have Jesus tested by political and religious leaders in order to get the one-up on Him. In both narratives the true enemies and friends of God are flipped around.

We have an 8th century BC text written on a plaster wall in modern day Jordan, which describes a visionary named Balaam, who has a night vision and offers an interpretation. Whoever this man was, he was apparently famous enough of a seer to get the attention of Balak. The Israelites had begun invading the promised land. They crossed over the Jordan river just on the other side of Jericho, and were encamped at Moab’s backdoor. King Balak sought Balaam out to come and curse the Israelites to prevent them from invading his kingdom. Balaam was not an Israelite and lived some 400 miles northeast of where the Israelites we encamped, but God still spoke through him with oracles.

Balaam resisted the call of Balak at first, but he finally decided to make the journey after God spoke to him. Still, God was angered that Balaam would go to Balak, and so he sent an angel to strike him down on his journey. Balaam’s donkey saw the angel and kept veering off the path with the result of harsh blows from Balaam. Shockingly, the donkey begins to speak to Balaam and asks him why all the beating when he is just trying to avoid the angel of the Lord. Balaam’s eyes are then opened and he to sees the angel of the Lord and repents. Balaam fails to see that the donkey is his friend and is on his side.

Next we have Balaam offering animal sacrifices and blessings for the Israelites instead of against the Israelites as Balak requested. Balaam manages to keep his head firmly attached to his shoulders, but Balak is incensed that he will not curse the Israelites. Balaam responds by reminding the king that he will only speak the words God puts into his mouth. Balak learns that he cannot buy the Lord God’s friendship.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus confronts his own king Balak in the form of the Chief Priests, Pharisees and Sadducees. They try to trap Jesus through a series of questions about his authority to teach (21:23), whether it is lawful to pay taxes to the emperor (22:17), and how marriage will be arranged after the Ressurection if you had more than one spouse (23:28). In all of these scenes, Jesus out maneuvers them and reverses their expectations. In chapter 21 after two parables about a vineyard, Jesus plainly states, “therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom” (21:43). The religious leaders may meet all of the outward standards of being God’s chosen people, but in reality they are missing the heart of the Gospel. The expected reward of the kingdom of God is rescinded and given to tax collectors and prostitutes instead (21:32). It is bad enough that the religious leaders rejected God’s prophecy through John the Baptist, but even when the truth was placed right before their eyes, they still refused to believe it.

…we should continually examine whether our work in God’s kingdom is bearing the right kind of fruit.

How often do we as Christians want our side to be right so bad that we neglect God’s will staring us right in the face? How often do we want us to be the “friend” of God doing His will and for the other person to His “enemy”? How often do we think that we can buy God’s blessing and friendship because we are in a place of privilege or power?

These questions should challenge us to really pay attention to our motives in our devotion to Jesus. We need to take great care in discerning God’s will for our lives and question if we are making a choice because we really want “our” choice to be the “right” one. Finally, we should continually examine whether our work in God’s kingdom is bearing the right kind of fruit. There will be fruit with any kind of labor, but we should not confuse fruit that only benefits us with the grace giving fruit of the kingdom of God which transforms lives. It is so easy to get stuck in a pattern of thinking that God is always on your side, but never forget that God often reverses human expectations, particularly when we neglect to listen to His voice and see the work He is doing in our midst.

 

Daniel HaynesDaniel desires to know God with all of his mind, heart, and strength. He is a continuous student of Jesus and the Christian life. Daniel has lectured and taught philosophy and theology for over a decade in various colleges and universities. He currently serves as the Resident Theologian at St. Mary and St. Martha of Bethany in Buford, GA. 

 

 

 

Here are the daily readings for this week

Proper 8      Week of the Sunday closest to June 29       

Morning Ps. Evening  Ps. OT Epistle Gospel
Sunday 118 145 Num. 21:4-9,21-35 Acts 17:(12-21)22-34 Luke 13:10-17
Monday 106:1-18 106:19-48 Num. 22:1-21 Rom. 6:12-23 Matt. 21:12-22
Tuesday [120], 121, 122, 123 124, 125, 126, [127] Num. 22:21-38 Rom. 7:1-12 Matt. 21:23-32
Wednesday 119:145-176 128, 129, 130 Num. 22:41-23:12 Rom. 7:13-25 Matt. 21:33-46
Thursday 131, 132, [133] 134, 135 Num. 23:11-26 Rom. 8:1-11 Matt. 22:1-14
Friday 140, 142 141, 143:1-11(12) Num. 24:1-13 Rom. 8:12-17 Matt. 22:15-22
Saturday 137:1-6(7-9), 144 104 Num. 24:12-25 Rom. 8:18-25 Matt. 22:23-40

 

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