J. N. Manokaran
The disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ have to be distinct from other people around them. They ought to be distinct in their life-style, attitude, deeds, words, relationships, and priorities. The children of Israel were called to be distinct. Balaam was invited to curse Israel, but instead he blessed her as God desired. In his utterances he said, “From the rocky peaks I see them,from the heights I view them. I see a people who live apart and do not consider themselves one of the nations. Who can count the dust of Jacob or number even a fourth of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and may my final end be like theirs!” (Num.23:9,10). During the time of Esther, a similar statement about Israelites was made. “Then Haman said to King Xerxes, ‘There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will give ten thousand talents of silver to the king’s administrators for the royal treasury’” (Esth.3:8-9).
In the Old Testament times, the children of Israel were called to be distinct. Many times they failed, but did succeed a few times. Today, our good Lord expects Christians to be distinct in an environment that is soaked in sin—deceit, sexual immorality, spiritual deception and corruption.
The DNA of the disciples is different. “Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.You should not be surprised at My saying, you must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit’” (Jn.3: 5-8). The uniqueness of Christians is that they are born of the Spirit. Because of this distinct origin of a Christian life, the life-approach of a Christian is completely different. The Spirit helps them to see and perceive the eternal and prioritise their life goals around eternal things.
Balaam was able to see the children of Israel from the high hill. It was a panoramic view. He was able to see people according to the desire of God (Num.22:41). The topography, orderliness, and design of the camp with the tabernacle in the midst of it, were an awesome sight. Since God has designed each one of us with a purpose, living according to God’s design should be the priority of every disciple. Discovering and performing according to the design for which we are sent into the world should be the first priority of a Christian.
The Israelites did not consider themselves as one of the nations. They were a class apart. They were not ordinary, natural or average; they were distinct. The Israelites did not think, speak or live in the realm of ordinary people. Their thoughts, aspirations, ambitions, and priorities were entirely different. The other nations could pride about various things—riches, military power, magical power, forts and wealth. However, the Israelites did not compare themselves with the other nations in these arenas. Their covenant relationship with God made them a distinct and unique nation.
Paul writes that he will boast only about the cross of Christ, and nothing else. “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world” (Gal.6:14). Paul also writes, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col.3:1).
The Israelites were numerous like the dust and beyond computation. This was the promise given to Abraham, “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore” (Gen.22:17). There are two distinct multiplications—sand/dust and stars. Both are innumerable. The sand/dust denotes the physical descendants of Abraham, while the stars denote the spiritual descendants. The Church, the spiritual descendant of Abraham, is spread throughout the world in the nooks and corners of all nations, among all cultures and ethnicity. They are numerous and have great influence over all humanity. The contribution of the Church to the world is beyond computation and description.
The complaint of Haman was that the Israelites were following different customs. They were morally, spiritually and ethically disciplined. Their holiness, righteousness and sense of justice were intolerable in a normal society. Since they set high moral values, they could be pulled down by compromise or destroyed through ethnic cleansing. Values are not variables, but absolute, in keeping with the attributes and character of God. The Israelites were consistent in behaviour and practices. Christians ought to be disciplined in personal cleanliness, moral values and spiritual walk. Disciplined Christians are not squeezed by the mould of the world; they are transformation agents who transform the customs and culture of the world (Rom.12:1-2).
Balaam desired a death similar to that of the Israelites. Death is considered inauspicious, an enemy (1Cor.15:26). But, for Christians death is desirable, even a privilege. According to Balaam, Israelites were blessed even in their death. In fact, for Christians, death is an open door to eternity with God in heaven. Christians are not afraid of death, but can embrace death with joy as they rest from their labours, struggles, pains, tears, worries, stress, anxieties, diseases and disappointments in the world (Rev.14:13).
What kind of disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ do we find in the world today? Unfortunately, a majority of ‘Christians’ fail to display the distinctiveness of following the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ-likeness is not revealed to the world through their words, deeds, relationships, and life-style. Even the enemies, like Haman and Balaam, gave glorious testimonies about the Israelites. Daniel’s critics could not find fault with him.