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A STAR SHALL COME FORTH OUT OF JACOB
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Monday, 3rd Week of Advent, December 15, 2014
Num. 24:2-7, 15-17, Ps. 24, Matt. 21:23-27


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.

 

"I shall 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" (Num. 24:17).


Balaam, a pagan prophet from Moab, was sent by Balak, the king of Moab, to curse Israel, which was encamped in the plains of Moab, preparing to cross the Jordan into Canaan. But when the prophet Balaam saw Israel, God inspired him to bless rather than curse them, and so he said that one day in the distant future "a star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel" (Num. 24:17). At that time a star symbolized a god, and later it came to also indicate a divinized king.


This prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the divine king of the universe who rose out of Jacob. When Jacob blessed his twelve sons, he said to Judah, "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples" (Gen. 49:10). The kingly scepter began in Judah with King David of the tribe of Judah, and the prophecy says that it will not depart from Judah "until he comes to whom it belongs; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples" (Gen 49:10). This is a Messianic prophecy, and it was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the divine king of the universe who came from the tribe of Judah. He is the one to whom the scepter belongs, and to him all peoples render homage.


At Christmas we celebrate the coming of this divine king, God and man, a man who is the one God. He is this star, and to him belongs the scepter. Israel waited for a long time for the fulfillment of these prophecies. They hoped for God's salvation on the earth and God's peace in their hearts. We can deepen our appreciation of what we now have in Jesus Christ by reading these prophecies during Advent. At the same time we also long for a deeper coming of God's salvation in Jesus Christ into our life, heart, and world. For this deeper experience of salvation we are now preparing ourselves.


We are approaching the great feast of Christmas, and we rejoice in the salvation that God has sent us in his Son Jesus Christ and in the great peace he puts into our hearts. This great peace comes from his death on the cross that justified us through our faith in him. Because he made just and adequate reparation for our sins on the cross, suffering their punishment, by our faith in him, when we invoke his death, God removes the burden and pain of guilt for our sins from our heart, and instead of the depression, sadness, and darkness of guilt, he gives us jubilation of spirit. Christ then shines with the splendor of his own righteousness in our hearts, and God declares us righteous, and since he is God, his declaration effects what it declares, making us truly righteous and resplendent with the happiness of God in our heart. If God declares us righteous, he makes us righteous in fact, so that his declaration may be in accord with the truth. In a word, "since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God thorough our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:1).


This peace and salvation will vanquish all the afflictions of our life. We will have afflictions, but God's salvation in us will overcome them. "I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). We live in the splendor of this salvation through our faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, the star that has arisen out of Jacob, the one to whom the scepter belongs, and to whom the peoples render homage.

 

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