Reading 1 - Num 24:17-19
"I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth. Edom will be conquered; Seir, his enemy, will be conquered, but Israel will grow strong. A ruler will come out of Jacob and destroy the survivors of the city" (Num 24:17-19).
Balaam's prediction concerns the rise of David and the Davidic kingdom. The "star" refers to David -- who struck down the Moabites (Num 24:17; 2Sa 8:2) and the Edomites (Num 24:18; 2Sa 8:13,14; 1Ki 11:15,16; 1Ch 18:12,13). Thus, under David, Israel prospered and the nations round about were subjugated and often had to bring tribute (eg, 2Sa 8:2,6).
But, the prophecy cannot be exhausted at this point, for David did not completely destroy Moab and Edom, with the result that later writers would be free to use this imagery to speak of the one who would come and deal ultimately with the enemies of God.
The use of the term "star" does more than point to a ruler; it also connects that ruler with heaven. The birth of Jesus was connected with heavenly signs (Mat 2:2), and one of his titles is "the bright Morning Star" (Luk 1:78-79; Rev 22:16) -- used in connection with his descent from the line of David. When he returns from heaven to conquer the enemies of God, and to set up God's kingdom, his advent will be accompanied by other signs in the heavens (Mat 24:29,30; Mark 13:24,25).
Reading 2 - Pro 17:3
"The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart" (Pro 17:3).
"In the work here mentioned the object is to clear away the dross whether in the fining of metals or of human hearts, but the proverb does not suggest that there is a perfect analogy. Rather does it imply a difference. Metals may be purified by men with fining pot and furnace, but the heart can only be tried and cleansed by God. The process of fining is far more complex and wonderful than anything that can be effected with metals. It is not merely a matter of removing dross, but something quite new has to be introduced; new hopes, new desires and in fact 'newness of life' " (Islip Collyer, "Principles and Proverbs").
Reading 3 - Eph 5:20
"Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything" (Eph 5:20).
"Be thankful. Be intensely thankful. Be continuously thankful -- every moment. We can never be thankful enough: we just do not have the physical and mental capacity to be as thankful as we should. No matter how bad or sad our circumstances may be, there are always grounds for more thankfulness than we are humanly able to feel or express. Being thankful has many practical values. It is wholesome. It is healthy. It is therapeutic. It refreshes and clears and invigorates the mind. It wonderfully flushes out the rubbish and the petty cares. It is an automatic antidote to much foolishness and fleshliness. No one can be thankful and lonely at the same time; or thankful and angry; or thankful and self-pitying -- not if it is true, deep, spiritual thankfulness. Thankfulness is a powerful incentive to do what is right, and to resist what is wrong. It is a major ingredient of our love for God. It is a wonderful remembrancer -- keeping the mind fixed on God and His goodness. 'Give thanks ALWAYS for ALL things' -- for the 'bad' as well as the 'good,' for all is part of a deep and wise Divine Purpose that is training us for Eternity, and leading us to Life" (GV Growcott).