"I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab, And tear down all the sons of Sheth.Numbers 24:17(NASB)
Balak, the ungodly king of Moab, was fearful of Israel's great military might and sought out a diviner who would curse the nation and bring him victory over his enemies. He sought out a wicked prophet called Balaam and promised to reward him handsomely, if he would simply place a curse on the people of Israel.
Balaam was a true prophet through whom the Lord spoke on a number of occasions, but his heart was wicked and he was willing to curse God's people for the financial reward offered by this pagan king.
Peter identifies Balaam as one "who love the wages of wickedness," while Jude also references this evil prophet in his short epistle: "Woe to them who run greedily after the error of Balaam, for reward," was Jude's clear warning to those that use God's Word for personal profit.
Three times, the Lord not only prevented Balaam from cursing Israel, but caused him to bless the people with great abundance and with victory over their enemies, which enraged the king of Moab!
The verse in question is part of Balaam's fourth oracle, and once again he was prevented from cursing God's people. He prophesied of a Star or Sceptre that would arise in Israel. He foretold of a great King Who would come forth from Jacob, Who would conquer Moab and all their enemies.
"I see him, but not now," Balaam declared to the wicked king. I see a great King arising in Israel – not at this present time but in the future: "I behold him, but not near. A Star shall come forth from Jacob." This wicked man prophesied of Jesus, the bright, Morning Star Who would rise up from the nation of Israel, destroy all their enemies, and bring the wicked to naught.
"A Sceptre shall rise from Israel," he continued, "and He shall crush through the forehead of Moab and tear down all the sons of Sheth." This future King of Israel would be the one to crush the 'forehead' or 'borders' of the kingdom of Moab, which was situated in the northern part of Edom (today called Jordan). It has been suggested that 'the sons of Sheth' mentioned in this verse, is more correctly translated as 'the sons of tumult'. Christ is the One Who will fully and finally stop the raging of the nations and silence the tumult of the pagan countries who are plotting in vain against the Lord and against His anointed.
A total of seven times, Balaam's prophetic voice brought nothing but speaking blessings upon the people of Israel, much to the anger of the pagan king. But a clear warning is issued to all who read of the exploits of this wicked prophet, for he finally figured out a way to claim the reward from king Balak. It was through deception and deceit, that Balaam tempted Israel to fall into sin, to worship of Baal, to commit sexual sin with the pagan women, and to dishonour the name of the God of Israel.
May we take to heart the serious warnings that are issued by Peter, Jude, and the Lord Jesus Himself in His own warning in the letter to Pergamum: "There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality."
The enemy of our soul continuously tries to shipwreck our witness and to entice God's people into idolatry and sin, through a range of satanic and deceptive tactics. The enemy often uses false teachings, demonic doctrines, a love of the world, sexual impurity, and a compromise of the truth to ruin the testimony of a child of God. Let us hold fast to the Word of God and seek to do only those things that are righteous in His sight.
Heavenly Father, thank You that Jesus is that Star and Sceptre Who has gained victory over all our enemies by His death and Resurrection. Thank You also for the many Bible stories that warn about the deceptive tactics of the enemy who desires to wreck our testimony and dishonour Your name. Keep me low at the Cross and broken before You. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.