Deacon Arlene Burton offers the Intercessory Prayer for 27 September 2020.
Brothers, Sisters and Friends we hope you are well. However, if you are not, please let us know.
We will be doing further deliberations on the issue of forgiveness. We have been looking at the causes that gave rise to the hurt and need for forgiveness. The cause that we examined last Friday is the words that we voice, to others and self. We had also considered some concepts in ensuring that there is clarity and understanding.
I tried to determine which encounter in the Bible best demonstrated for us the use of words when voiced. The one that forcefully came to mind was Balaam, the donkey, and king Balak, and God’s intervention. This event took place while the children of Israel were travelling from Egypt to the land of Canaan. Balak thought that the Israelites were powerful. He feared them because of what they had done to the Amorites (Numbers 22:2). Instead of direct confrontation, Balak tried a different route. He was of the view that Balaam had the power to curse the people of Israel. This would provide him with the opportunity to drive them away.
He set forth on a mission to convince Balaam to curse the Israelites, and he used a number of strategies. He told Balaam:
“A people has come out of Egypt: they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me. Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.”Numbers 22:5-6 (NIV)
Balaam’s response was to consult with God. Balaam said to God:
“Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent me this message: A people that has come out of Egypt covers the face of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me. Perhaps then I will be able to fight them and drive them away.”Numbers 22:10-11 (NIV)
God’s response was classical. “But God said to Balaam, ‘Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.’” (Numbers 22:12, NIV). God told Balaam not to speak words of curses over His people. Balaam aimed to please God. Yet Balak’s men still tried to convince Balaam to curse the people. Balaam was strong in his conviction.
We may say that Balaam understood his role as a prophet and a child of God. He also knew that there was no power that was greater than the God he served. Balaam was not prepared to flinch in his position nor compromise his relationship with God by receiving gifts. He told Balak’s men:
“Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God. Now spend the night here so that I can find out what else the Lord will tell me.”Numbers 22:18-19 (NIV)
God paid Balaam another visit and said “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.” (Numbers 22:20, NIV). However, what happened afterwards seemed contradictory. Nevertheless, one may say that the subsequent experience reminded Balaam of God’s power and authority as he faced the journey ahead. The Lord saw Balaam’s heart. He knew what could have happened if He had not allowed for an awakening in Balaam’s spirit through an encounter with the angel of the Lord.
Based on the instruction given, Balaam attempted to go with Balak’s men but we learned that God was angry. An angel of the Lord stood in the way. He was only seen by Balaam’s donkey. The donkey tried to get out of the way but Balaam repeatedly beat the donkey in anger, for it to proceed (Numbers 22:21-27).
Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.” The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?” “No” he said. Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.”Numbers 22:28-31 (NIV)
The angel of the Lord asked him “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.”Numbers 22:32-33 (NIV)
Balaam said to the angel of the Lord “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.” The angel of the Lord said to Balaam “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.Numbers 22:34-35 (NIV)
You may note that God was angry and so was Balaam. As indicated on Friday, anger is an emotion that emerges from the hurt, not the cause of the hurt. Balaam was hurt by what the donkey had said and done. He was upset with the donkey to the point of anger. He voiced anger towards the donkey and abused the animal. God was angry because He saw ahead what Balaam could have done. One may say He saw Balaam’s heart and had to set him on a straight path through those encounters in order to prepare him for the journey ahead.
Balaam subsequently met with Balak who took him to see the outskirts of the Israelite camp (Numbers 22:36-40, NIV). “Well, I have come to you now,” Balaam replied. “But I can’t say whatever I please. I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.” (Numbers 22:38, NIV).
Balaam made an altar to the Lord through Balak, and the Lord visited with Balaam (Numbers 23:1-7, NIV). His response did not satisfy Balak’s request. His response included “How can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce those whom the Lord has not denounced?” (Numbers 23:8, NIV). Balak was insistent so he took Balaam to another angle of the Israelites’ camp.
Balak strongly believed that Balaam had the power to curse the Israelites. Balaam then met with the Lord another time but His response was still not pleasing to Balak. It partly states “God is not human, that he should lie; not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? I have received a command to bless. He has blessed, and I cannot change it.” (Numbers 23:19-20, NIV). Balaam knew his voice was to build up and not tear down the Israelites.
Balak tried for a third time to curse the people so he took Balaam to yet another angle of the Israelite camp (Numbers 23: 27-29, NIV). As was done the first time Balaam built an altar and sought the Lord. Balaam pronounced multiple blessings on Israel to the disappointment of Balak who eventually gave up and walked away (Numbers 24). God be praised. Brethren, our focus on what God wants is critical in achieving His purpose through us.
A few more thoughts came to me as I meditated on the experience. At times we are repeatedly hurt by others. Those close to us seem to cause greater hurt because there is an expectation that they will always aim to protect us. The donkey said to Balaam, “…Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? (Numbers 22:30, NIV).
God gave the donkey a voice, which Balaam knew could only be done through God’s power. Balaam diligently sought God along the way. He acknowledged his imperfection in the way he functioned. He sinned in his anger but admitted his wrong and confessed. Hold on! Did I see a similar comment somewhere else? How about what Judah said concerning Joseph? “Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed. (Genesis 37:27, NIV). This gives us the human illustration, for sure.
Balaam was shown three different angles by Balak to curse the Israelites (the third; Numbers 23:27). Sometimes we are faced with a number of uncomfortable situations, even intense ones. I recall the apostle Paul encouraging the Brethren to “Put on the full armour of God;” (Ephesians 6:11, NIV); and be aware of the real enemy; “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12, NIV). Therefore, one could say that Balaam became aware.
If we were in Balaam’s situation, what would be our response? You know, Balaam made a choice, “But I can’t say whatever I please. I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.” (Numbers 22:38, NIV). What if we all only speak those things that God puts into our mouths? Would we hurt others by our speech? Would there be the need to forgive? One more thought, you may note Balaam knew or came to realise that he had to heavily rely on God. Brethren, this not a one read. It requires meditation and reflection on self. Think…about it.
Let us pray.
Lord, You are excellent in all of Your ways! You establish the earth and it endures. It endures to this day. From generation to generation You remain God. You are Awesome! Your praise will continually be on our lips.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Lord, we thank You for Your goodness. We thank You for Your mercies, we thank You for Your grace. Lord, we thank You for Your love. We thank You for forgiving us, we thank You for the opportunity to be called your children. We thank You for sustaining us, we thank You for making the way in our deserts.
Lord, we are grateful. We thank You.
Lord, You are perfect in all of Your ways. You are most righteous. We come in the name of Jesus Christ. We ask that You have mercy on us as individuals, as families, as churches and associations, as communities and as a country. You understand our beings and nothing we think, say or do is hidden from You. So we ask that You forgive all of our sins and cleanse us from all our transgressions and iniquities.
Lord, hear, and have mercy.
Lord, we present to You all leaders in this country and throughout the world whether local church leaders, leaders of church associations, leaders in business and leaders of nations. We know that constantly decisions are made from a legal, social, economic, physical and spiritual standpoint that are not pleasing unto You. Words are uttered that tear down rather than build up. So Lord, we pray for mercy.
Lord, have mercy!
We ask that You turn every heart to move and operate according to Your will and Your ways. Where there is a need for wisdom, insight, revelations, understanding, courage, boldness, soundness of mind and unity in spirit to worship and honour Your name, doing only what pleases You, grant it we ask. Lord, let not sins dominate us, neither hand us over unto our sinful ways. Lord, remember our nation’s leaders. In particular:
The Honourable Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness, Minister of Health and Wellness Christopher Tufton, Minister of Finance and the Public Service Nigel Clarke, health workers and support staff, Minister of Education, Youth and the Environment, Fayval Williams. Minister of National Security, Horace Chang and his team, Minister of Justice, Delroy Chuck. We remember also the judges in our congregation: Paula Blake Powell and Grace Henry McKenzie.
Hear O Lord and have mercy.
Lord, we are dealing with Covid-19 at the community level and people still seem to be losing focus in terms of being cautious. Have mercy on us and help us as a nation to be responsible citizens, and be the best keeper of our neighbours. God Almighty, only You can help us to deal with Covid-19 and eliminate it. So Lord, we need Your healing touch upon us, our churches, families and nation.
Deliver and heal us Lord.
Lord, there are those who are trying to rob, steal and destroy. You came to give us life, and life more abundantly. Take control of every criminal or intended criminal mind, every criminal schemes, plans, will and desires in every person, in every community, in every part of government, public and private sector operating to pull us down as individuals, families and as a country. Free us from the bondage of crime and restore us, we ask.
Lord, remember those among us who are mourning. We lift up the sick and shut-ins from our usual list. We also remember Sisters Iris Lawrence, Lelith James, Jennifer Nicholson, Virginia Muir, Marville (Cherry) Murray (Sister Iris Lawrence’s daughter), Janet Chen-Young, Joyce Bailey, Lucille Alexander, Jhada Graham, Ethlyn Atkins, Cherrie Lee, Brother George Gabbidon, and Andrew Robinson (Sister Claire Robinson’s son), Brother Danville Japp’s father, Mr. Isaiah Japp, and any family member who is currently struggling with the Covid-19 virus.
Lord, deliver, heal and comfort us.
Lord, we thank You for answering our prayers concerning the CSEC and CAPE exam results for our students. We thank You for outstanding results. There are a few confusing results so we pray for a resolve and Your peace for those who are not happy at this time.
Lord we thank You in Jesus’ name.
Our Weekly Prayers are for everyone. Therefore, if you are also in need of prayer or comfort, please contact us with your request. We would be so very happy to share with you.