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Numbers 22:21-23:30; Luke 1:57-80; Psalms 58:1-11; Proverbs 11:12-13 (Contemporary English Version)

Numbers 22:21-23:30

21 So Balaam got up the next morning and saddled his donkey, then left with the Moabite officials.

Balaam and His Donkey Meet an Angel

22 Balaam was riding his donkey to Moab, and two of his servants were with him. But God was angry that Balaam had gone, so one of the Lord’s angels stood in the road to stop him. 23 When Balaam’s donkey saw the angel standing there with a sword, it walked off the road and into an open field. Balaam had to beat the donkey to get it back on the road.

24 Then the angel stood between two vineyards, in a narrow path with a stone wall on each side. 25 When the donkey saw the angel, it walked so close to one of the walls that Balaam’s foot scraped against the wall. Balaam beat the donkey again.

26 The angel moved once more and stood in a spot so narrow that there was no room for the donkey to go around. 27 So it just lay down. Balaam lost his temper, then picked up a stick and smacked the donkey.

28 When that happened, the Lord told the donkey to speak, and it asked Balaam, “What have I done to you that made you beat me three times?”

29 “You made me look stupid!” Balaam answered. “If I had a sword, I’d kill you here and now!”

30 “But you’re my owner,” replied the donkey, “and you’ve ridden me many times. Have I ever done anything like this before?”

“No,” Balaam admitted.

31 Just then, the Lord let Balaam see the angel standing in the road, holding a sword, and Balaam bowed down.

32 The angel said, “You had no right to treat your donkey like that! I was the one who blocked your way, because I don’t think you should go to Moab.[a] 33 If your donkey had not seen me and stopped those three times, I would have killed you and let the donkey live.”

34 Balaam replied, “I was wrong. I didn’t know you were trying to stop me. If you don’t think I should go, I’ll return home right now.”

35 “It’s all right for you to go,” the Lord’s angel answered. “But you must say only what I tell you.” So Balaam went on with Balak’s officials.

King Balak Meets Balaam

36 When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went to meet him at the town of Ir, which is on the northern border of Moab. 37 Balak asked, “Why didn’t you come when I invited you the first time? Did you think I wasn’t going to pay you?”

38 “I’m here now,” Balaam answered. “But I will say only what God tells me to say.”

39 They left and went to the town of Kiriath-Huzoth, 40 where Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep and gave some of the meat to Balaam and the officials who were with him.

41 The next morning, Balak took Balaam to the town of Bamoth-Baal. From there, Balaam could see some of the Israelites.[b]

Balaam’s First Message

23 Balaam said to Balak, “Build seven altars here, then bring seven bulls and seven rams.”

After Balak had done this, they sacrificed a bull and a ram on each altar. Then Balaam said, “Wait here beside your offerings, and I’ll go somewhere to be alone. Maybe the Lord will appear to me. If he does, I will tell you everything he says.” And he left.

When God appeared to him, Balaam said, “I have built seven altars and have sacrificed a bull and a ram on each one.”

The Lord gave Balaam a message, then sent him back to tell Balak. When Balaam returned, he found Balak and his officials standing beside the offerings.

Balaam said:

“King Balak of Moab brought me
    from the hills of Syria
to curse Israel
    and announce its doom.
But I can’t go against God!
He did not curse
    or condemn Israel.

“From the mountain peaks,
I look down and see Israel,
    the obedient people of God.
10 They are living alone in peace.
And though they are many,
    they don’t bother
    the other nations.

“I hope to obey God
for as long as I live
    and to die in such peace.”

11 Balak said, “What are you doing? I asked you to come and place a curse on my enemies. But you have blessed them instead!”

12 Balaam answered, “I can say only what the Lord tells me.”

Balaam’s Second Message

13 Balak said to Balaam, “Let’s go somewhere else. Maybe if you see a smaller part of the Israelites, you will be able to curse them for me.” 14 So he took Balaam to a field on top of Mount Pisgah where lookouts were stationed.[c] Then he built seven altars there and sacrificed a bull and a ram on each one.

15 “Wait here beside your offerings,” Balaam said. “The Lord will appear to me over there.”

16 The Lord appeared to Balaam and gave him another message, then he told him to go and tell Balak. 17 Balaam went back and saw him and his officials standing beside the offerings.

Balak asked, “What did the Lord say?”

18 Balaam answered:

“Pay close attention
    to my words—
19 God is no mere human!
He doesn’t tell lies
    or change his mind.
God always keeps his promises.

20 “My command from God
    was to bless these people,
and there’s nothing I can do
    to change what he has done.
21 Israel’s king is the Lord God.
He lives there with them
    and intends them no harm.
22 With the strength of a wild ox,
    God led Israel out of Egypt.
23 No magic charms can work
    against them—
just look what God has done
    for his people.
24 They are like angry lions
    ready to attack;
and they won’t rest
until their victim
    is gobbled down.”

25 Balak shouted, “If you’re not going to curse Israel, then at least don’t bless them.”

26 “I’ve already told you,” Balaam answered. “I will say only what the Lord tells me.”

Balaam’s Third Message

27 Balak said to Balaam, “Come on, let’s try another place. Maybe God will let you curse Israel from there.” 28 So he took Balaam to Mount Peor overlooking the desert north of the Dead Sea.

29 Balaam said, “Build seven altars here, then bring me seven bulls and seven rams.”

30 After Balak had done what Balaam asked, he sacrificed a bull and a ram on each altar.


  1. 22.32 I don’t think you should go to Moab: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  2. 22.41 Balaam could see some of the Israelites: For a curse to work, the people or thing being cursed had to be seen.
  3. 23.14 a field. . . where lookouts were stationed: Or “Zophim Field on the top of Mount Pisgah.”
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Luke 1:57-80

The Birth of John the Baptist

57 When Elizabeth’s son was born, 58 her neighbors and relatives heard how kind the Lord had been to her, and they too were glad.

59 Eight days later they did for the child what the Law of Moses commands.[a] They were going to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60 But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John.”

61 The people argued, “No one in your family has ever been named John.” 62 So they motioned to Zechariah to find out what he wanted to name his son.

63 Zechariah asked for a writing tablet. Then he wrote, “His name is John.” Everyone was amazed. 64 Right away, Zechariah started speaking and praising God.

65 All the neighbors were frightened because of what had happened, and everywhere in the hill country people kept talking about these things. 66 Everyone who heard about this wondered what this child would grow up to be. They knew that the Lord was with him.

Zechariah Praises the Lord

67 The Holy Spirit came upon Zechariah, and he began to speak:

68 Praise the Lord,
    the God of Israel!
He has come
    to save his people.
69 Our God has given us
    a mighty Savior[b]
from the family
    of David his servant.
70 Long ago the Lord promised
by the words
    of his holy prophets
71 to save us from our enemies
and from everyone
    who hates us.
72 God said he would be kind
to our people
and keep
    his sacred promise.
73 He told our ancestor Abraham
74 that he would rescue us
    from our enemies.
Then we could serve him
    without fear,
75 by being holy and good
    as long as we live.

76 You, my son, will be called
a prophet of God
    in heaven above.
You will go ahead of the Lord
to get everything ready
    for him.
77 You will tell his people
    that they can be saved
when their sins
    are forgiven.
78 God’s love and kindness
    will shine upon us
like the sun that rises
    in the sky.[c]
79 On us who live
in the dark shadow
    of death
this light will shine
to guide us
    into a life of peace.

80 As John grew up, God’s Spirit gave him great power. John lived in the desert until the time he was sent to the people of Israel.


  1. 1.59 what the Law of Moses commands: This refers to circumcision. It is the cutting off of skin from the private part of Jewish boys eight days after birth to show that they belong to the Lord.
  2. 1.69 a mighty Savior: The Greek text has “a horn of salvation.” In the Scriptures animal horns are often a symbol of great strength.
  3. 1.78 like the sun that rises in the sky: Or “like the Messiah coming from heaven.”
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Psalm 58

(A special psalm by David for the music leader. To the tune “Don’t Destroy.”[a])

A Prayer When All Goes Wrong

58 Do you mighty people[b] talk
only to oppose justice?[c]
    Don’t you ever judge fairly?
You are always planning evil,
    and you are brutal.
You have done wrong and lied
    from the day you were born.
Your words spread poison
    like the bite of a cobra
    that refuses to listen
    to the snake charmer.

My enemies are fierce
    as lions, Lord God!
    Shatter their teeth.
    Snatch out their fangs.
Make them disappear
like leaking water,
    and make their arrows miss.
Let them dry up like snails
    or be like a child that dies
    before seeing the sun.
Wipe them out quicker
than a pot can be heated
    by setting thorns on fire.[d]

10 Good people will be glad
when they see the wicked
    getting what they deserve,
    and they will wash their feet
    in their enemies' blood.
11 Everyone will say, “It’s true!
    Good people are rewarded.
    God does rule the earth
    with justice.”


  1. Psalm 57; 58 Don’t Destroy: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  2. 58.1 mighty people: Or “mighty rulers” or “mighty gods.”
  3. 58.1 Do. . . justice: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  4. 58.9 Wipe. . . fire: See the note at Psalm 57.
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Proverbs 11:12-13

12 It’s stupid to say bad things
    about your neighbors.
    If you are sensible,
    you will keep quiet.
13 A gossip tells everything,
    but a true friend
    will keep a secret.

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