Fell flat on his face

Numbers 22:31-40

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When we say “I fell flat on my face” we’re usually speaking figuratively.

The young romantic might say, “I tried to impress her with my scant knowledge of Shakespeare. Turns out, she has a PhD in English Literature. I fell flat on my face!”

We use the phrase to indicate embarrassment.  But in the Bible, falling on one’s face is always literal.  And it is moved by something a lot stronger than social awkwardness.

To fall flat on one’s face happens just the once in the King James translation – Numbers 22:31.  But that’s the phrase that has entered common parlance.

Balaam is the one to have fallen flat on his face.  And in his case, he falls in shame.

As we saw yesterday, he has just been rebuked by his own donkey.  Then…

the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.”  (Numbers 22:31)

Here is a revelation of Christ – the Angel of the LORD.  He is the Word of the Father, the Radiance of God’s Glory, the Eternal Bridegroom, the Commander of the LORD’s Host, the King of kings and Lord of lords. He’s the same one who met Abraham in Genesis 17, Moses inExodus 3, Joshua in Joshua 5, Isaiah in Isaiah 6, Peter in Luke 5, Paul in Acts 9 and John in Revelation 1.

On all these occasions, there’s an overwhelming weight of glory.  Their strength gave way and they fell flat on their faces.  When Christ appears in glory, no-one can stand. Knees buckle, chests sink, arms go limp and faces hit the floor.

For Balaam it was a shaming.  For those listed above, it was worship.  But everyone falls when Christ is revealed in glory.

Today, look around you.  There are those who walk tall in this life but have no love for Jesus.  They will be brought low.

Then there are those who are down at heel yet they trust in Christ.  They will fall in wonder and be lifted in mercy.

One day soon we will all be flat on our faces – some to everlasting shame, others to everlasting joy and gratitude.

At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;  And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11)

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