Dec 7, 2016 – A Star Shall Come Forth
Light. Light is what this advent series calls us to focus on. As we all know, this time of year, daylight decreases and diminishes till we get to the 21st of December. If I remember correctly from my astronomy course, every day there is 4 minutes less sunlight, 2 minutes less in the morning and 2 in the evening. And on the 21st of December that phenomenon reverses and we begin to gain 4 more minutes of sunlight every day. But that also means that between now and December 21 we have four more minutes of nighttime each 24 hours.
That gives us more time to look at the moon and the stars. The stars are what I want to draw our attention too for a few minutes. Listen again to the scripture I read earlier, Numbers 24:17
17 I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh: a star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab, and break down all the sons of Sheth.
This is foretelling of the starlight to come from Jacob. The word star, in referring to person, usually denotes royalty. This is not like a so-called tv or movie ‘star’ today. In the days of Balaam, a contemporary of Moses, Balaam is the one speaking this oracle, these words from God. At that point of history, referring to someone as a star or having starlight, was used to signify that that person was of the heavens. They were a ruler who shone in splendor. It also meant they were a guide, they lead their people. That’s also why the double image in this passage of star combined with a scepter.
A scepter was a sign of royal power and authority. Now in the course of Balaam’s oracle this would be an obvious reference to the rise of the coming of king David. There is also a school of Jewish tradition that sees in this a reference beyond David to the messiah. That promised one to come from David’s line. And what is Jesus known as – The Son of David. The one who would rule forever.
Jesus is that promised scepter and star. Look for a moment at a few of the places where the scriptures use ‘star’ as a reference for a person.
Rev 22;16 Jesus says of Himself, “I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star!”
And of course there’s Matthew 2:2 when the wise men ask, Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.
There are many other places in both old and new testaments where star is used. Ill mention just one other one, that is 1 Corinthians 15:41 where St Paul writes, There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
Paul points out that star differs from star in its ‘glory’ or its brightness. I don’t remember the scale but I do recall that Polaris or the north star is among the brightest of all the stars in the sky. It stands out from the others.
So also with Jesus. He stands apart from all others. There is no one who bears the same brightness or glory as He. He rules above all and over all. Remember we made reference to the secpter, the stick that a ruler uses as a sign of His power.
In Balaam’s oracle, in Balaam’s words from God, that too carries the double meaning of both David and Jesus. Under David the kingdom will no longer be divided, but unified. So also in Christ, in the messiah to come. In Him, in Jesus the world is no longer divided, but all things come under His sovereign rule and authority.
He, He alone will be both starlight and scepter. Balaam also says, He is seen as now and not yet. He comes but is not yet near. We wonder at the order of scripture to let the lesser light of David point the world to the greater light to come of Jesus Christ.
And speaking of His light, could it be imagined that the star the wise men saw, is reflecting the light FROM the messiah, from Jesus the king?! No. I know better, but I also know that all creation points us to Jesus and this star light is no different.
We, this advent season, when sunlight is diminishing, we prepare to celebrate the return of the sunlight beginning soon. That only serves to point us back to The Light of the world, Jesus Christ who came into this world at Christmas.
He brought the light of God, the royal light of heaven to earth to shatter the darkness of sin. He came to die on the cross and to rise again in majesty and power, in glory and light to shine forth forever. Christmas is our celebration of the light of God come to grant us rescue from our dark world of sin.
We prepare for that celebration of light in advent. Yes the daylight now is diminishing, but we know that it will again glow and rise. We know this will happen as we have tracked it for centuries. We trust in the return of sunlight.
We also trust in the return of Jesus. Yes He is coming again to the manger that we celebrate soon. But remember He is also coming again, as Balaam’s oracle reminds, to rule over all the world. In the name of the one who is here and is yet to come, Jesus Christ, we pray amen.
Sermon #858 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO