That Jesus the Messiah was born in Bethlehem is a well known fact, celebrated all over the world. Hardly celebrated at all is that His line includes a member of Israel’s enemies, Ruth the Moabitess. Also hardly considered at all is that God used a man who was a hated tax collector (Matthew) to write a Gospel to His chosen people. And hardly known at all is that He used a reckless prophet to prophesy the circumstances of Jesus’ birth.
Just as Luke tells us details about Christ’s birth that Matthew doesn’t, so also Matthew tells us things the other Gospel accounts leave out. “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “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.”” The Herod mentioned here is noted as King, meaning Herod the Great (a different Herod – the tetrarch – will be on the scene later).
Matthew is the only Gospel writer to tell us that while Herod was king, a very unusual phenomenon occurred. For during this time, a very bright star appeared in the sky. This would’ve been observed by people all over the middle east as that which Numbers 24:17 spoke of, “A star will come out of Jacob;” heralding the rise of Messiah. Thus, that Jesus was born in the time of Herod is also fulfillment of prophesy.
But that prophesy in Numbers is not from Moses. Actually, it is part of Balaam’s fourth oracle. Balaam was the man hired by Balak to curse the nation of Israel (Balak was the crown prince of Moab – for that reason he is referred to as Balak son of Zippor. Zippor was king of Moab, see Num 22:4). This is one and the same Balaam who was rebuked by a donkey (Num 22:21-41) for his reckless ways before the Lord. Taken by Balak to view the camps of Israel from various vantage points so as to curse them from afar, Balaam is caused to prophesy blessing on them, the very opposite thing Balak had asked. Balak was is driven to frustration, at which point Balaam says, “The oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the oracle of one whose eye sees clearly, the oracle of one who hears the words of God, who has knowledge from the Most High, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.”
It is this last sentence, “A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel,” that the wise men of the east would’ve noted as a sign of the coming of the Jewish King. For sure, it is a prophesy given by a reckless prophet to a pagan king (Balak), and perhaps from that perspective it should’ve been long forgotten. But it was not just the rantings of a reckless individual. It was God’s Word, given to a prophet of God that the nations of the earth might know that He is God and that He watches over His people. So instead of being forgotten in the annals of history, it became a prophesy listened to by Gentiles half a world away, thousands of years later. A prophesy whose fulfillment is now celebrated every year, world over.
Thousands of years ago, the Magi came looking for Jesus because they were watching the night sky for His sign. But today Jesus asks us, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”Marcus Verbrugge
God’s word never goes unfulfilled, no matter who He uses to speak or write it.
How are you preparing to meet Him on that fateful day He returns?