With great excitement the children gather around the young adult. They are ready to run around, play, laugh and have a great time. The game, “Smaug’s Treasure” is quite simple. One participant designated “Smaug” endeavors to guard some random object designated as the “treasure.” The other participants form an ever fluctuating (but ideally set and defined) “circle” with a radius of roughly 10 feet around “Smaug.” At Smaug’s invitation select participants with “blue” on or “summer birthdays” etc. try to steal Smaug’s treasure. If they are tapped by Smaug they are “out.” If they succeed then they become the new “Smaug.” Smaug, by the way, is the name of the fire-breathing dragon from The Hobbit by J.R. Tolkien. It’s a fun, silly game. Usually no particular spiritual lesson is imparted. Usually.
On Saturday we welcomed nearly 30 1-3 graders. One of the two lessons for the day came from the book of Numbers chapter 22-24. It is the story commonly known as “Balaam’s Donkey. It is the only story in the Bible in which a donkey talks. It is also the only story in the Bible in which a king hires a sorcerer to put a curse on his enemies (who just happened to be the Hebrews). It is a pretty straight forward story. King Balak sees the Israelite people coming. He has heard what they have done to several other kings and naturally does not want them to conquer his land. Seeing that he does not have sufficient military strength to drive them away he decides to hire Balaam to put a curse on them. God, of course, is not about to let this happen. I invite you to read the story.
The thing about most Old Testament stories, is that you never really grasp the full meaning of them without understanding them in the larger context of what God is doing throughout scripture. Children often need help with this. In the 12th chapter of Genesis, God makes some marvelous promises to Abraham. Among them, are promises of land, many descendants and most significantly the promise that through Abraham, God would bless all the people’s of the world. God’s promise was to bless Abraham and to bless the world through Abraham. King Balak’s will was to curse the descendants of Abraham – the people whom God had promised to bless, and through whom God had promised to bless us.
Throughout the story, God intervenes again and again in order to protect His people. He is like “Smaug” guarding his treasure. God simply will not allow His people to be cursed by Balaam – they are too important to Him. God works through a fascinating and surprising turn of events to protect His people and uphold His promises.
The stakes are higher than may appear. You see it is not just a matter of one people occupying a land or winning a battle. No, God’s promise to bless all the people’s of the world is a promise that finds fulfillment through a very special descendant of Abraham – namely Jesus. Through the skills of Balaam and the occult, King Balak’s actions threatened to destroy the very people through whom God would bring us the Messiah. In this way Balak’s actions represented a direct threat on our salvation. The Good News is that God loves us far too much to allow any king, sorcerer or power of evil to thwart His good and gracious plan to bless and save us through His Son Jesus Christ.
May you know, like many of the children who camp to this Saturday find yourself trusting in the promises and power of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.