The news cycle is loud, but we need to hear those who can’t shout
Pity King Balak of Moab. Nothing he tried worked. His prophet-for-hire Balaam had an easy enough gig: stand at the top of a hill and curse a million Israelites spread out below, lest they “lick up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field” (Numbers 22:4). But the prophet opened his mouth, and blessings came out instead of curses.
Balak was freaked, but unbowed: Let’s try that again! Maybe the mountain was wrong, maybe the altar lacked blood, maybe we’ll have more success from that perch over yonder. We’ll ramp up the number of goats! Second try, same results (Numbers 23:19-26).
But three’s a charm! I know a place where it’s certain to work! (Balak is panicking now.) Spout incantations on Jews from Peor and I’ll double your pay!
Not only didn’t the scheme hurt the Jews, but they came up more blessed than before. Funny how one minute you’re holding all the cards and the next minute you’re Yosemite Sam with singed whiskers and a smoldering dynamite stick in your hand. “Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by safely” (Psalm 141:10).
Funny how one minute you’re holding all the cards and the next minute you’re Yosemite Sam with singed whiskers and a smoldering dynamite stick in your hand.
That’s a one-off, you say. Oh? Then why does Scripture chronicle so many that it looks more like a principle? Like how balls thrown upward always come back down.
A Persian courtier named Haman (he also hates Jews) has a foolproof plan, until it boomerangs. He has the ear of the king, he has the ginned-up crime, he has the signed decree in hand sealed with a signet ring, dispatched to every satrap in the far-flung realm—that in the 12th month on the 13th day it will be open season on the Israelites throughout the land. He builds a gallows to adorn with Mordecai, his nemesis.
Then like a knot ineptly tied, it starts unraveling. Mordecai gets wind of plots against the throne. Then King Ahasuerus cannot sleep and calls for bedtime reading from the annals. Esther holds a banquet and the evil Haman’s scheme comes out—and Haman ends up swinging from the rope he strung himself.
Ahab is a whiner, so his wife, Queen Jezebel, maneuvers to get him Naboth’s vineyard near the palace in Jerusalem. All might is on their side, the body is hidden, and the purloined land is safely in their hands. Except it’s not. Once again the heavens spring to action to avenge poor Naboth, and the story ends with Jezebel’s servants tossing her from her bedroom window—the dogs lick up her blood from the same spot where Naboth’s blood was shed (1 Kings 21:19; 2 Kings 9:26).
It seems that every time a fiery pit or lion’s den is ready for the noble Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, or Abednego, they end up with promotions, not destruction (Daniel 3:30; 6:28). Their foes receive the punishment they had prepared (6:24).
Rulers conspire together “against the Lord and his Anointed,” but, as it turns out, only “to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:26-28). Paul goes to jail in Rome. The upshot is that he sends back greetings to the church from new converts inside Caesar’s household (Philippians 4:22): “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard” (1:12-13).
Note the way—in politics and life—men of base motives seem to prosper at the first. And yet it ever seems the case that at some point the worm will turn, and evil backfires back on them.
Methinks it is a law.
“He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success. He catches the wise in their own craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end” (Job 5:12-13).