Sunday, January 17, 2016

Blessings and Cursings

January 17, 2016

Not everyone who blesses you is your friend, and not everyone who curses you is your enemy. In the Biblical book of Numbers, chapters 22-24, The Moabite king Balak hired the pagan prophet Balaam to curse Israel. Balaam agreed, but when he worked his magical arts, much to his surprise God himself showed up and warned him about doing so. Three times, instead of cursing Israel, he blessed them, even speaking prophetic words that pointed to Jesus Christ. Balak was understandably not too happy with him, but Balaam's reply was that he could "only speak the words God put in [his] mouth." It certainly seemed as if he were a friend of Israel, even if reluctantly so.

But immediately following these blessings we find Israel deeply involved in pagan rituals involving sexual immorality on a massive scale, for which God brought judgment on them to the tune of 24,000 people dying in a plague. At first, there is no discernible correlation between these two events, but in the 31st chapter we read, "These people through the counsel of Balaam cause the Israelites to act treacherously against the LORD in the matter of Peor - which resulted in the plague among the community of The Lord" (v.16). Although he blessed them, he also enticed them, leading pragmatically to the curse he wasn't permitted to pronounce.

Most of us have had people in our lives who blessed us with their words, but cursed us with their actions. We learned through hard experience that some we thought were our friends were friend in name only. Conversely, real friends are proven through years of faithful loyalty through good times and bad, times when the opportunity for disloyalty was there but not taken, when they could have walked away with everyone else, but chose not to.

By the same token, a true friend is not afraid to speak hard words that sound like curses but are in fact blessings in disguise as they force us to face realities we would rather avoid. Tonight I am grateful for this Scripture that reminds me to exercise discernment when people bless and to listen when a true friend seems to curse. They may be offering God's blessing in disguise.

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