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Numbers 24-25

24 Balaam was sure that the Lord would tell him to bless Israel again. So he did not use any magic to find out what the Lord wanted him to do, as he had the first two times. Instead, he looked out toward the desert and saw the tribes of Israel camped below. Just then, God’s Spirit took control of him, and Balaam said:

“I am the son of Beor,
and my words are true,[a]
    so listen to my message!
It comes from the Lord,
    the God All-Powerful.
I bowed down to him
    and saw a vision of Israel.

“People of Israel,
    your camp is lovely.
It’s like a grove of palm trees[b]
    or a garden beside a river.
You are like tall aloe trees
    that the Lord has planted,
or like cedars
    growing near water.
You and your descendants
will prosper
like an orchard
    beside a stream.
Your king will rule with power
and be a greater king
    than Agag the Amalekite.[c]
With the strength of a wild ox,
    God led you out of Egypt.
You will defeat your enemies,
shooting them with arrows[d]
    and crushing their bones.
Like a lion you lie down,
    resting after an attack.
Who would dare disturb you?

“Anyone who blesses you
    will be blessed;
anyone who curses you
    will be cursed.”

10 When Balak heard this, he was so furious that he pounded his fist against his hand and said, “I called you here to place a curse on my enemies, and you’ve blessed them three times. 11 Leave now and go home! I told you I would pay you well, but since the Lord didn’t let you do what I asked, you won’t be paid.”

12 Balaam answered, “I told your messengers 13 that even if you offered me a palace full of silver or gold, I would still obey the Lord. And I explained that I would say only what he told me. 14 So I’m going back home, but I’m leaving you with a warning about what the Israelites will someday do to your nation.”

Balaam’s Fourth Message

15 Balaam said:

“I am the son of Beor,
and my words are true,[e]
    so listen to my message!
16 My knowledge comes
from God Most High,
    the Lord All-Powerful.
I bowed down to him
    and saw a vision of Israel.

17 “What I saw in my vision
    hasn’t happened yet.
But someday, a king of Israel
    will appear like a star.
He will wipe out you Moabites[f]
and destroy[g] those tribes
    who live in the desert.[h]
18 Israel will conquer Edom
and capture the land
    of that enemy nation.
19 The king of Israel will rule
and destroy the survivors
    of every town there.[i]

20 “And I saw this vision
    about the Amalekites:[j]
Their nation is now great,
but it will someday
    disappear forever.[k]

21 “And this is what I saw
    about the Kenites:[l]
They think they’re safe,
    living among the rocks,
22 but they will be wiped out
    when Assyria conquers them.[m]

23 “No one can survive
    if God plans destruction.[n]
24 Ships will come from Cyprus,
bringing people
who will invade
    the lands of Assyria and Eber.
But finally, Cyprus itself
    will be ruined.”

25 After Balaam finished, he started home, and Balak also left.

The Israelites Worship Baal

25 While the Israelites were camped at Acacia, some of the men had sex with Moabite women. These women then invited the men to ceremonies where sacrifices were offered to their gods. The men ate the meat from the sacrifices and worshiped the Moabite gods.

The Lord was angry with Israel because they had worshiped the god Baal Peor. So he said to Moses, “Take the Israelite leaders who are responsible for this and have them killed in front of my sacred tent where everyone can see. Maybe then I will stop being angry with the Israelites.”

Moses told Israel’s officials,[o] “Each of you must put to death any of your men who worshiped Baal.”

Later, Moses and the people were at the sacred tent, crying, when one of the Israelite men brought a Midianite[p] woman to meet his family. Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron[q] the priest, saw the couple and left the crowd. He found a spear and followed the man into his tent, where he ran the spear through the man and into the woman’s stomach. The Lord immediately stopped punishing Israel with a deadly disease, but twenty-four thousand Israelites had already died.

10 The Lord said to Moses, 11 “In my anger, I would have wiped out the Israelites if Phinehas had not been faithful to me. 12-13 But instead of punishing them, I forgave them. So because of the loyalty that Phinehas showed, I solemnly promise that he and his descendants will always be my priests.”

14 The Israelite man that was killed was Zimri son of Salu, who was one of the leaders of the Simeon tribe. 15 And the Midianite woman killed with him was Cozbi, the daughter of a Midianite clan leader named Zur.

16 The Lord told Moses, 17-18 “The Midianites are now enemies of Israel, so attack and defeat them! They tricked the people of Israel into worshiping their god at Peor, and they are responsible for the death of Cozbi, the daughter of one of their own leaders.”

Footnotes:

  1. 24.3 my words are true: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  2. 24.6 grove of palm trees: Or “green valley.”
  3. 24.7 Agag the Amalekite: The Amalekites were long-time enemies of the Israelites (see Exodus 17.8-16), and Agag was one of their most powerful kings.
  4. 24.8 shooting them with arrows: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  5. 24.15 my words are true: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  6. 24.17 you Moabites: Or “the territories of Moab.”
  7. 24.17 destroy: The Standard Hebrew Text; the Samaritan Hebrew Text “the skulls of.”
  8. 24.17 those tribes. . . desert: The Hebrew text has “the descendants of Sheth,” which probably refers to the people who lived in the desert areas of Canaan before the Israelites.
  9. 24.19 every town there: Or “Ir in Moab.”
  10. 24.20 the Amalekites: See the note at 24.7.
  11. 24.20 but. . . forever: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  12. 24.21 the Kenites: A group of people who lived in the desert south of Israel.
  13. 24.22 them: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 22.
  14. 24.23 destruction: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 23.
  15. 25.5 officials: These were special leaders who were probably responsible for an entire tribe or part of a tribe.
  16. 25.6 Midianite: Used here as a general term for various peoples who lived east of the Jordan River. Some of these people were probably ruled by the Moabite king (see Genesis 36.35).
  17. 25.7 Phinehas. . . Aaron: Hebrew “Phinehas, son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron.”
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Luke 2:1-35

The Birth of Jesus

About that time Emperor Augustus gave orders for the names of all the people to be listed in record books.[a] These first records were made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.[b]

Everyone had to go to their own hometown to be listed. So Joseph had to leave Nazareth in Galilee and go to Bethlehem in Judea. Long ago Bethlehem had been King David’s hometown, and Joseph went there because he was from David’s family.

Mary was engaged to Joseph and traveled with him to Bethlehem. She was soon going to have a baby, and while they were there, she gave birth to her first-born[c] son. She dressed him in baby clothes[d] and laid him on a bed of hay, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Shepherds

That night in the fields near Bethlehem some shepherds were guarding their sheep. All at once an angel came down to them from the Lord, and the brightness of the Lord’s glory flashed around them. The shepherds were frightened. 10 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid! I have good news for you, which will make everyone happy. 11 This very day in King David’s hometown a Savior was born for you. He is Christ the Lord. 12 You will know who he is, because you will find him dressed in baby clothes and lying on a bed of hay.”

13 Suddenly many other angels came down from heaven and joined in praising God. They said:

14 “Praise God in heaven!
Peace on earth to everyone
    who pleases God.”

15 After the angels had left and gone back to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see what the Lord has told us about.” 16 They hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and they saw the baby lying on a bed of hay.

17 When the shepherds saw Jesus, they told his parents what the angel had said about him. 18 Everyone listened and was surprised. 19 But Mary kept thinking about all this and wondering what it meant.

20 As the shepherds returned to their sheep, they were praising God and saying wonderful things about him. Everything they had seen and heard was just as the angel had said.

21 Eight days later Jesus' parents did for him what the Law of Moses commands.[e] And they named him Jesus, just as the angel had told Mary when he promised she would have a baby.

Simeon Praises the Lord

22 The time came for Mary and Joseph to do what the Law of Moses says a mother is supposed to do after her baby is born.[f]

They took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem and presented him to the Lord, 23 just as the Law of the Lord says, “Each first-born[g] baby boy belongs to the Lord.” 24 The Law of the Lord also says that parents have to offer a sacrifice, giving at least a pair of doves or two young pigeons. So that is what Mary and Joseph did.

25 At this time a man named Simeon was living in Jerusalem. Simeon was a good man. He loved God and was waiting for God to save the people of Israel. God’s Spirit came to him 26 and told him that he would not die until he had seen Christ the Lord.

27 When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple to do what the Law of Moses says should be done for a new baby, the Spirit told Simeon to go into the temple. 28 Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and praised God,

29 “Lord, I am your servant,
    and now I can die in peace,
because you have kept
    your promise to me.
30 With my own eyes I have seen
what you have done
    to save your people,
31 and foreign nations
    will also see this.
32 Your mighty power is a light
    for all nations,
and it will bring honor
    to your people Israel.”

33 Jesus' parents were surprised at what Simeon had said. 34 Then he blessed them and told Mary, “This child of yours will cause many people in Israel to fall and others to stand. The child will be like a warning sign. Many people will reject him, 35 and you, Mary, will suffer as though you had been stabbed by a dagger. But all this will show what people are really thinking.”

Footnotes:

  1. 2.1 names. . . listed in record books: This was done so that everyone could be made to pay taxes to the Emperor.
  2. 2.2 Quirinius was governor of Syria: It is known that Quirinius made a record of the people in A.D. 6 or 7. But the exact date of the record taking that Luke mentions is not known.
  3. 2.7 first-born: The Jewish people said that the first-born son in each of their families belonged to the Lord.
  4. 2.7 dressed him in baby clothes: The Greek text has “wrapped him in wide strips of cloth,” which was how young babies were dressed.
  5. 2.21 what the Law of Moses commands: See the note at 1.59.
  6. 2.22 after her baby is born: After a Jewish mother gave birth to a son, she was considered “unclean” and had to stay home until he was circumcised (see the note at 1.59). Then she had to stay home for another 33 days, before offering a sacrifice to the Lord.
  7. 2.23 first-born: See the note at 2.7.
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Psalm 59

(For the music leader. To the tune “Don’t Destroy.”[a] A special psalm by David when Saul had David’s house watched so that he could kill him.)

A Prayer for Protection

59 Save me, God! Protect me
    from enemy attacks!
Keep me safe from brutal people
    who want to kill me.

Merciless enemies, Lord,
are hiding and plotting,
    hoping to kill me.
I have not hurt them
    in any way at all.
But they are ready to attack.
Do something! Help me!
    Look at what’s happening.
Lord God All-Powerful,
    you are the God of Israel.
Punish the other nations
    and don’t pity those terrible
    and rebellious people.

My enemies return at evening,
    growling like dogs
    roaming the city.
They curse and their words
    cut like swords,
    as they say to themselves,
    “No one can hear us!”

You, Lord, laugh at them
    and sneer at the nations.
    You are my mighty fortress,
    and I depend on you.
10 You love me and will let me
    see my enemies defeated.
11     Don’t kill them,
    or everyone may forget!
Just use your mighty power
    to make them tremble
    and fall.

You are a shield
    for your people.
12 My enemies are liars!
    So let them be trapped
    by their boastful lies.
13 Get angry and destroy them.
    Leave them in ruin.
Then all the nations will know
    that you rule in Israel.

14 Those liars return at evening,
    growling like dogs
    roaming the city.
15 They search for scraps of food,
    and they snarl
    until they are stuffed.

16 But I will sing about
    your strength, my God,
    and I will celebrate
    because of your love.
You are my fortress,
    my place of protection
    in times of trouble.
17 I will sing your praises!
    You are my mighty fortress,
    and you love me.

Footnotes:

  1. Psalm 59 Don’t Destroy: See the note at Psalm 57.
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Proverbs 11:14

14 A city without wise leaders
    will end up in ruin;
    a city with many wise leaders
    will be kept safe.

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