If you’ve been on social media at all in the last months, you’ve probably seen the “memes” that describe 2020 as the cursed year. Indeed, a lot of rather unsavory things have happened this year so far. To be honest, I’ve gotten tired of listening to the doom and gloom and seeing the unrest all around us. But then the Lord surprised me around 1:00 am this morning. As I was reading through Nehemiah, a phrase jumped off the page at me:
“Our God, however, turned the curse into a blessing”Nehemiah 13:2b
In context, the Israelites had returned from exile, recommitted themselves to the Lord, and were dedicating the walls of Jerusalem that they had just rebuilt. As the law was being read aloud, the people realized that the Moabites were not to be allowed into an assembly of God because they had hired a false prophet named Balaam to curse the Israelites after they left Egypt. Then came that short snippet: “Our God, however, turned the curse into a blessing”. God didn’t allow the curse to come all those years ago. He changed Balaam’s words to bless the people instead.
I started thinking about how God can change the ‘curses’ in our lives to blessings. He often uses painful parts of life – the heartbreak, the suffering, the loss, the persecution, the betrayal – and transforms them into something for our good and his glory. The trials are what he uses to mold and mature us, ultimately blessing us and others in the end.
After thinking about this for a while, I decided to look up the blessing God gave the Israelites through Balaam when he held back the curse. I almost jumped out of my seat in excitement when I read…
“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…”Numbers 24:15-17 (emphasis added)
Right there it was – a prophecy about the coming Messiah, placed inside a blessing from the prophet who tried to curse Israel. Instead of Balaam’s curse, God dictated a promise of the greatest blessing that would come to the earth – our savior. The savior that would bear God’s curse by hanging on a cross (Deut 21:22-23) and take the curse of our sin upon himself so that we could be free. This is God’s wonderful work in our lives. We could never deserve it, just like Israel could never deserve God’s provision and protection of them.
Do you remember how Balaam said that a star would come out of Jacob? As I was researching all the mentions of stars in the Bible, I came across Revelation 22:16-17. I had to stop, smile, and thank God for what he was showing me through his word. Here’s what it says:
“‘I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.’ The Spirit and the bride say ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” (emphasis added)Revelation 22:16-17 (emphasis added)
The Messiah, the star from Jacob, the bright Morning Star: he came to take the curse and offer you the blessing. Do you hear the invitation? It is simply ‘come’. If you are thirsty, ‘come’. If you wish to receive the free gift, ‘come’. Come and drink from the water of life – the water that offers to cleanse you from the curse of sin. Come to the redeemer who is able to fulfill your thirst and give you every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). He is waiting.
So the next time you see a post about how 2020 is cursed, remember that God is in the business of exchanging curses for blessings. He already did the greatest work of history so that we can receive the blessing of his salvation and be freed from the curse of sin! The trials are his way of molding and maturing us into the image of his son.
Look for the blessings, thank God for the trials, and come.