God bless America, land that I love. That’s the beginning of the song written by Irving Berlin in 1918 (the year my grandfather was born), and revised by him in 1938–the same year Kate Smith made it famous. I remember the first time I heard her sing it. I was mesmerized, and I tried many times to belt it out with the same power and vibrato she sang with that made it her signature song. I loved all the words to the song, but especially the next line that said, “Stand beside her, and guide her, through the night with a light from above.”
In today’s reading from Numbers 23:13 through Numbers 23:26, we are back on another mountain top with Balak and Balaam, and Balak is again asking Balaam to curse Israel. Again, Balak built seven altars and sacrificed a bull and a ram on each of them. And, again, Balaam told him to stand by the burnt offerings while he went to see what God had to say about things. And, yet again, God met Balaam and put the words in his mouth that Balaam should say when speaking over Israel.
I won’t put the whole poetic pronouncement, but here is its beautiful beginning from the Complete Jewish Bible…
“Get up, Balak, and listen!
Turn your ears to me, son of Tzippor!
19 “God is not a human who lies
or a mortal who changes his mind.
When he says something, he will do it;
when he makes a promise, he will fulfill it.
20 Look, I am ordered to bless;
when he blesses, I can’t reverse it.
In summary, it goes on to say that there is no guilt or perversity in Israel, and God is their King who brought them out of Egypt and gives them the strength of an ox, so that no magic will work against them. Israel rises up like a lioness, and like a lion that will not lie down until he eats up his prey.
Balak says to Balaam, “Obviously, you won’t curse them. But at least don’t bless them!” (This part cracks me up. Balak is missing the whole point of the words God put into Balaam’s mouth.) And Balaam tells Balak one more time that he can only speak what God, Himself, leads him to say. So, because Israel belongs to God, God will not only refuse to let someone curse His child, but He overcomes the desires to curse by offering even more blessing.
I love the power and authority in verse 19, and the promise that God is who He says He is, will do what He says He will do, and will fulfill ALL His promises. His blessings are in high demand even from unbelievers because they are not like the unstable blessings that men heap on each other. We can trust that what God says, He will do, and if He says He will bless something, consider it done.
So, should we continue to ask God for His blessings on our country? Absolutely! But, as we do, let us realize what the magnet is that draws His blessings toward us. Here’s what it says in Proverbs 11:10-11…
When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices;
and when the wicked perish, there is joy.
By the blessing of the upright, a city is raised up;
but the words of the wicked tear it down.
Ask God for His blessings, but let that request come AFTER you have spoken in such a way that your life is seen as righteous in His eyes. Do not live by wicked words and deeds that will tear down our nation. We see the results of that all around us. Men somehow believe that by thinking of themselves they will heap blessings on their own heads, but by leaving God out of the equation, they are only drawing the rewards of the wicked. Put God first. Remember that JOY stands for “Jesus, Others, You” in that order. We have a promise that by the blessing of the upright, an entire city can be raised up. Imagine what can happen for our country if ALL those who believe will bless God in everything we say and everything we do–every day we live. I say, again, “America, bless God!”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been greatly affected by the admonition from Romans 12:1 to not judge because when we do, we must beware of doing the same thing. Even when directing my nephews for the short time I raised them, I always thought about how I could be accused of doing the same things I was now disciplining them for, so I would try to tell them that discipline did not mean I was judging them. People who do not serve God might call it “karma” or some other word, but I guess I’ve always felt that if I passed judgment over others, I was risking putting myself in a position to be tested by that very thing.
Unfortunately, what I’ve just described is not the effect God wanted that admonition to create. To the contrary, He actually wants us to judge, but to do so in righteousness and not with pride as if we’re better than others, or as if we don’t commit our own sins in our own ways. In today’s reading from Exodus 28:13 through Exodus 28:30, we read about an important piece of the garment for the High Priest of God. This piece is called “the breastplate of judgment” and it has some pretty cool aspects to it that can help us avoid the condemnation that follows in the other verses in Romans 2.
First, the design of the piece includes twelve beautiful stones. The artists are told to engrave one name of each tribe of Israel into each stone. Basically, these are the children of Israel’s birthstones. These stones, sewn into the breastplate and laying over the top of the vest of the high priest’s garment, will always be above the heart of the priest when he goes into the holy of holies to minister to God. This will keep the tribes of Israel over his heart, so he will judge with righteousness.
Beyond the breastplate, we have a couple extra pieces called the urim and tumim that will be covered in detail later, but these stones that rest on the shoulder of the high priest will help him in determining the truth for God’s children, so he can judge correctly.
As with the priests, it is God’s will that we judge, and that we do so correctly in righteousness. If we seek His help and direction, we can keep the right thoughts on our hearts when we are required to pass judgment. God has to judge between good and evil because evil cannot dwell with Him. We must judge between good and evil if we want to keep ourselves from evil, so we can dwell in the presence of God. That is why judgment begins at the house of God–our house/temple of God’s Holy Spirit. May God place His heart–the heart of a righteous judge–within us all that none of us would judge in pride or arrogance but only in obedience and righteousness in Christ.
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