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Speaking to the Soul: Not What I’m Paying You For

Speaking to the Soul: Not What I’m Paying You For

Week of Proper 8, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 140, 142 (morning) // 141, 143:1-11(12) (evening)

Numbers 24:1-13

Romans 8:12-17

Matthew 22:15-22

In today’s first reading, Balaam gets a third chance to do the job he’s been hired to do. A king named Balak has searched for miles around for a prophet who can do one simple task: curse Balak’s enemies, the Israelites. The Israelites have set up camp near Balak’s land, and he’s understandably nervous. He wants a curse from a powerful prophet to stop the Israelites from coming into his land, and it seems like Balaam could deliver the curse that Balak needs.

But it turns out that curses can’t be bought so easily. On Balak’s first attempt to get Balaam to do the job, Balak helps Balaam set up a sacrifice and a meeting with God. However, Balaam returns with the message, “How can I curse whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce those whom the Lord has not denounced?” (Num 23:8).

Foolishly thinking that a change in location will change Balaam’s message, Balak takes him to two other mountaintops from which he could easily hurl curses on the Israelites camped below. However, even with the changes in vantage points, Balaam’s message is the same. Balaam can only bless; he cannot curse.

Balak is furious. He shouts at Balaam in today’s reading, “I summoned you to curse my enemies, but instead you have blessed them these three times. Now be off with you! Go home! I said, ‘I will reward you richly,’ but the Lord has denied you any reward.” Balaam may have delivered God’s message faithfully, but Balak refuses to pay for it. Blessings aren’t what he’s paying Balaam for.

Unfortunately, hatred of enemies sometimes can be bought and paid for. Curses can be purchased; fear can be secured and wielded. Today let’s seek God’s help to succeed alongside Balaam, to embody a prophetic resistance to the fear, hatred, and curses that come at too high a price.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as Priest Associate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with adult formation and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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