This morning, there is much happening in the world that we could be disheartened about. When each passing day is marked by continued decay – physically, culturally, or otherwise – man could easily justify depression or overmuch sorrow. Now, we should feel the pangs of sorrow when spirituality declines in different venues, but the answer is never found by having sorrow consume us to the point of being unprofitable. If the sorrows and depressions of life overwhelm us like a flood, we will find little opportunity to serve God acceptably, for all we can then see is our own pains and heartaches. Therefore, when bad things happen in life, cultures decay, kingdoms fall, and friends go the way of all the earth, what subjects should occupy our minds to keep the sorrow from mounting up to uncontrollable levels? While several subjects should occupy exalted seats of prominence in our mind, let us look at one of them this morning that gives comfort, being based on the bedrock promises of Almighty God.
Our study verse above is found in the third declaration/exclamation of Balaam about the children of Israel. Going back through chapters 22-24, we see that Balaam is sent for by Balak (King of Moab) to curse the children of Israel. Instead, when Balaam comes, he blesses them three times in the name of the Lord, and our verse is in the third blessing. As chapter 24 opens, we see that Balaam has reached a point of not even seeking an answer (he already knows it). (Verses 1-2) God has displayed so vividly that these people are His and His to bless; Balaam now understands that God will not permit him to curse them for anybody or anything. Then, Balaam begins again to speak in the name of the Lord a blessing upon this people to the chagrin of their enemy: Balak.
What interests us most this morning from our verse above is what Balaam says about the prosperity of Jacob (Israel) in the future days ahead: “his seed shall be in many waters.” As we consider this phrase, it behooves us to consider not only what this says but who it applies to. There are many different schools of thought pertaining to the natural house of Jacob or Israel. Some look for a re-establishing of natural Israel from a world power standpoint. Some expect a revival of spirituality among the house of natural Israel. Some look for natural Israel to play a “higher” role in the kingdom during the “last days” as they will hold the Gentile kingdom worshippers in a more subservient role.
However, each of these schools of thought fails to realize the overall point of New Testament writers about natural Israel. Paul emphasizes the point in Ephesians 2:11-22 that natural distinctions between Jews and Gentiles is now irrelevant. He further bolsters the point in Colossians 3:10-13 by describing unity of thought and action in the elect family of God to be of higher value than natural or cultural ties. Therefore, when reading these prophecies of Israel in the Old Testament, what do we make of them today? Who do they apply to today? Again, one of the premier thoughts of the New Testament is the harmony of God’s people regardless of race and culture. Paul speaks of Israel in a spiritual sense by describing spiritual Jews (Romans 2:28-29), and he further describes the promises of Israel – originally given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – to apply to God’s elect family of promise. (Galatians 3:28-29)
Having laid that out and said all of that, prophecies such as these in the Old Testament apply to God’s family today – whether a natural descendant of Abraham or not. Bloodline is less important than a regenerated heart. Worship of the Father in spirit and in truth matters more than being a literal heir of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. So, when investigating prophecies like this one of Balaam, they did point in that day to those people in the wilderness, but in a much greater sense, they point to God’s family as a promise of our gracious God describing His providence to us.
Seeing then that promises of God to Israel apply to us (the elect family of God) today, let us look at the statement “his seed shall be in many waters.” This promise indicates that Jacob/Israel would benefit many nations and people due to his presence among them. The seed of offspring would inhabit many lands (waters), and this presence would directly benefit that land, nation, and culture. (Matthew 5:13) God promised Abraham that his seed would bless all nations. (Genesis 22:16-18) When looking at the heavenly portal, we see from John’s vantage point that the great host of the redeemed family of God in heaven comes from every known bloodline, people, nation, and culture. (Revelation 5:9) Therefore, we see from Scriptural corroboration that this promise of the people of God by the mouth of Balaam indeed points to the family of God being throughout all the earth and among all the different lands.
Knowing then the people this applies to and what the prophecy indicates, how do we respond? What is our course having this knowledge of God and His family? Looking at the world around us today, it is easy to become overly sorrowful and declare, “Are there any left?” Elijah experienced a similar bout of self-pity and depression in I Kings 19 by thinking that all the persecution of God’s enemies had wiped out God’s people and faithful followers save him. Looking at the nation of America today, we see ruin from without, but especially from within. There are many pegs to which we can hang the reason for the crumble and demise, but one peg that should stay noticeably vacant in our minds is the peg, “Are there any children of God left?”
Because his seed is in many waters, there are still God’s elect here. The existentialist believes his perception defines reality, and some might think their own lack of sight in detecting spiritual people defines their non-existence among us. However, whether we see them or not, they are still in many waters. God’s family is diverse from natural indicators. When looking at the empires and kingdoms of man, they all have their boundaries. Perhaps an ocean or sea kept the kingdom from going any further. Perhaps the king could not overcome barbaric people in distant lands. Maybe the emperor could no longer control his subjects and suffered a revolt from inside.
In all of these natural marks and limitations of empires of man, God, His kingdom, and His people shine supreme. No ocean, sea, or other natural impediment can withstand God from regenerating people to be citizens of the heavenly kingdom. No people, however barbaric or distant in mileage, are crusty enough to keep God from His purpose of making them new in His image. No revolt or spiritual apostasy can occur as no one can undo what God has wrought in the hearts of His chosen. Therefore, should the once great land of America fall victim and prey to its own internal turmoil and crumble from within, does that mean that God’s kingdom has failed? No, for America falling with God’s elect within her bounds is no different than Babylon, Greece, Rome, or any other world power falling with God’s elect within.
Where these kingdoms fall, God’s always stands. Whether troubles from without or within, God will not fail in His land the way that men do in theirs. As things progressively worsen in these days, we should neither fall victim to the nihilistic “who cares” mindset or the martyred “there’s no one else like me” way of thinking. Both of these fail to keep in frame the glorious enduring aspect of God’s kingdom and its ultimate conclusion in heaven and immortal glory. Furthermore, God’s kingdom has been manifest in a church sense in many waters as well. While this aspect of comforting promise is not as extensive as our birthright in the kingdom is (i.e. the gospel has not reached as many places to establish churches as the Holy Ghost has reached to quicken the hearts of God’s people), the manifest kingdom of God’s church has been in many waters and continues to exist despite all odds and attacks of her enemies.
God promised that as long as there is time there will be His church. (Matthew 16:18) He has promised that she be the foundation and keeper of truth in this dark world. (I Timothy 3:15) While she has never been as populated or extensive as God’s family at any given time (there are more children of God who are out of the church than in it), she is alive in this world. The comfort to be derived from this is that though kingdoms and earth shall fail, God’s people will not be left without a place of refuge in this world. There is a city to which we can go (not a city made with hands), but a city and land that we have to dwell in and rise up in the mountain of our God. It is in that place that a portion of God’s family is manifest in love and thanksgiving among the brethren. (I John 3:14)
Whatever tomorrow brings or whatever kingdoms rise and fall, may we ever hold fast these promises that God has not left this earth void of His people, nor has He left it without the glorious oasis in the desert for His people to gather as His people in love and appreciation to Him. My prophetic powers are not keen enough to foretell the future. Whether nations like America have 1, 10, or 100 years left, I know not. Should America fall, who will become the next in the historical line of the earth’s most dominant powers, I have no idea. But, no matter what comes or transpires, God’s family and God’s church will be alive as a seed among many waters. Persecution cannot extinguish either group, nor can Satan overturn this glorious promise to us. May we rest in this knowledge today and strengthen ourselves for the future.