"What Star is This"
Hymn of the Week
In the church of my boyhood — I am not kidding — one of the paintings of Old Testament figures was of Balaam, that prophet for hire, who had to be warned by his donkey to stop in his tracks, because an angel with a sword was ahead of them, and the angel was not pleased. Balak, king of the Moabites, wanted to squeeze out of Balaam a curse on the Hebrews who were passing through Moab, but Balaam could not do it. “I shall see him, but not now,” said Balaam, “I shall behold him, but not nigh; there shall come a star out of Jacob, and a scepter out of Israel.” For a long time I wondered what on earth Balaam was doing there when Jacob himself wasn’t, but now I see what the pastor, who directed the Italian painter, had in mind. If you go down to the catacomb of Priscilla, outside of Rome, you can see a rough fresco painting of Mary and the infant Jesus, and a rather tubby prophet pointing toward a star. That would be Balaam, and the meaning is clear. Jesus fulfills that prophecy, and rev…
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