Today we read in Numbers the conclusion of the episode with Balaam. Although not Jewish, Balaam worshiped the one true God and was a prophet and a seer. He is called on by Balak to curse the Israelites. Hearing the word of God he can’t bring himself to do it and only blesses them. In his final prophecy he utters this:
I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near:
a star shall come out of Jacob,
and a scepter shall rise out of Israel
This is the widely understood now to be the prophecy of the Star of Bethlehem. We are told that Balaam is from a place called Pethor. Although we don’t know exactly where that city was located we are told that it is to the east. Thus, it is speculated that Balaam is the ancestor of the magi. That would explain why the magi had interest in the star, although there are alternate explanations which we will explore when we read the book of Daniel.
Today we read Paul setting out on his second missionary journey. He immediately meets Timothy who is ½ Jewish and ½ Greek. Timothy had converted and Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him. Remember, that Paul has just come from Jerusalem where he has argued AGAINST the need to circumcise converts and this is exactly what the council had decided. Yet despite this Paul circumcises Timothy.
Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
The answer is simple – there is a difference between a religious need to do something and practical considerations. Timothy did not need to be circumcised to be saved or convert to Christianity. However, as a practical matter by circumcising him Timothy would be accepted by the Jews and be able to preach to them as an equal.
We see also what Paul and Timothy were doing as they traveled. They delivered to all the Churches the letter from the Council of Jerusalem.
As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
This shows that the Apostles had authority over all the Churches, even places they had never been. Again, we recognize that this is the same process that would be repeated down through the centuries.