Reading: Numbers 24:15-19

Reflection: You’ll probably remember Balaam as the prophet to whom God spoke through a donkey. Although God had told him not to go with the messengers from king Balak, he decided to go anyway, largely because of the money he was offered (although, naturally, he explained it as God’s word that told him to go). King Balak wanted Balaam to curse the Israelites, but no matter how many times and ways he and Balaam tried to curse God’s people, they couldn’t do it. Instead, Balaam found that he could only speak blessing over them. Today’s reading is part of that blessing. The message Balaam speaks is appropriate for his time. The blessing of a god was always associated with military victory in those days, and so the blessing includes images of various enemies’ heads being crushed or cracked. That’s how Balaam understood God back then.

This is why the coming of Jesus is so important. Jesus revealed that God is not a violent conqueror. Rather, the God we see revealed in Jesus is a divine Lover; seeking to win our hearts, not crush our skulls! In Jesus we are taught the radical truth that even enemies are to be loved. This new Gospel understanding of God is at the heart of Jesus’ life and mission – and it’s one we cannot avoid if we truly seek to know God through Christ. Are there any ways in which you still see God as a vengeful, violent conqueror? How does the vision of God that Jesus offers challenge you today?

Practice for Today: One of the most significant things that Jesus taught – and one of the hardest – is the practice of forgiveness. And he set the example when he forgave his executioners from the cross. Today, as you seek to experience the love and grace of God, share it with others – even those you don’t think deserve it – through the practice of forgiveness.

Prayer for Today: As you have forgiven and blessed me, O God, so I choose to forgive and bless those who have hurt me. r