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Curses can be turned into blessings, prof recounts from personal experience

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–“When life takes an unexpected turn and God’s plan doesn’t make sense, we can take comfort in the truth that God is in control,” Chuck Quarles said. “He will take what seems to be bad and use it for our eternal good.”

Quarles, associate professor of New Testament and Greek at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, made the comments during the chapel service at NOBTS on Sept. 2. Quarles pointed to the Old Testament story of Balaam to illustrate his point.

The story of Balaam, recorded in Numbers 22-24, takes place when the people of Israel were encamped near the border of Moab during the wilderness sojourn, Quarles said. Balak, the king of Moab, had summoned the pagan prophet Balaam to pronounce a curse on the people of Israel because he feared them.

“Balak knew that there was little he could do, the army of Israel was far more powerful than his own and, on top of that, their God was more powerful than his,” Quarles said, recounting that Balak’s plan for defeating the army of Israel was to use the power of Jehovah against them. To accomplish this task, Balak enlisted the pagan prophet Balaam to manipulate the will of God. At first Balaam refused to pronounce a curse on Israel, Quarles said. Finally, Balak was able to convince Balaam to curse the people. On three occasions, Balaam attempted to voice a curse against the people of Israel and on three occasions what came out of his mouth was a blessing.

The king fired Balaam and sent him away without pay, Quarles said. Balaam pronounced one last oracle as he left and again it was a blessing — a prophecy about Jesus.

“According to Jewish and Christian interpreters from two millennia, this prophecy foretold the coming of the Davidic Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ,” Quarles said.

Quarles then pointed to Deuteronomy 23:3-5, describing the verses as Moses’ commentary on the events of Number 22-24. Deuteronomy 23:5 recounts, “Nevertheless, the Lord your God was not willing to listen to Balaam, but the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you because the Lord your God loves you.”

“The principle is simple but profound,” Quarles said, noting that “God loves His covenant people so intensely that He will not curse them or will He allow them to be cursed…. [I]nstead, He takes every curse that threatens them and by His grace and for His glory transforms it until the curse becomes a blessing.”

Quarles noted, “I believe this is true with all my heart, not only because it is penned in the pages of God’s inspired and inerrant Word, but because I have experienced the fulfillment of this promise a thousand different times in a thousand different ways.”

As an example of how this principle is true, he related the story of his appointment and missionary service in Romania.

For years Quarles and his wife, Julie, sought appointment to serve as missionaries with the International Mission Board. Delay after delay extended their wait for 10 and a half years. Finally, the Quarleses were appointed to serve in Bucharest, Romania, in the field of theological education.

Their first two years on the mission field were filled with many blessings, Quarles said. Shortly after arriving in Bucharest, Quarles began to see God work in miraculous ways. Language studies were going well and people were being reached for Christ.

At Bucharest Baptist Theological Seminary and the University of Bucharest, Quarles was training hundreds of pastors and missionaries and he was also involved in planting a new church.

“We had two years of ministry that went far better than we could have ever imagined,” Quarles said. “Then we came to year three. At the beginning of year three life began to change.”

One day Quarles heard his children screaming in the front yard and then saw the neighborhood children throwing bricks and beer bottles at them.

Quarles said that over the next few months he had one of his tires slashed, something was poured in his gas tank preventing the car from running, and a device was placed in his tire in attempt to cause a blowout.

About the same time, the entire Quarles family began to experience nausea, headaches and fatigue. He said that a faulty heater in their home was exposing the family to carbon monoxide. Because the Quarleses had been exposed to the poison for months, their recovery took months.

Shortly after their recovery, Julie and Josh, their 4-year-old son, went to an open-air market to buy vegetables. Quarles said a beggar approached and asked for money. Julie said no, but intended to buy vegetables and bread for the man. As she turned her back, the angered beggar burned Josh’s face with his cigarette and laughed. Quarles said that this incident left a scar on Josh’s soul and he developed a stuttering problem.

The problems did not end there. Julie developed an intense, debilitating pain in her back. The medical care she received in Romania and Hungary only made matters worse. Finally, the Quarleses traveled to the United States to receive medical care and the doctor scheduled Julie for emergency surgery.

The surgery, performed in Memphis, Tenn., was required to prevent Julie from having permanent paralysis. Because of the severity of her condition before surgery, she was paralyzed from the waist down when she awoke from the operation.

Quarles said all of these problems took a toll on their daughter, Hannah. She developed a panic disorder and suffered severe panic attacks every time she ventured out of the their home. The problem ultimately led to their return to the United States — they would not be going back to Romania.

“After 10 years of struggle, we finally made it oversees, the ministry had gone far better than we expected and now after two short years the ministry was being cut short,” Quarles said. “We had to come home and it didn’t make sense. When the situation seemed the darkest, God intervened and performed a miracle.”

Quarles said that not only can Julie walk, her recovery has been so complete that it has confounded her doctors. His children are recovering from the trauma as well.

“God has obviously worked powerfully and graciously,” Quarles said. “God spared our lives again and again and again.”

Quarles said that teaching at Bucharest Baptist Theological Seminary had been very rewarding. Leaving was hard, because he thought he would never again have such a strategic ministry position.

“In God’s gracious providence I’m now teaching on the faculty of one of the largest seminaries in the world,” he said. “I am impacting the lives not only of a few hundred students, but thousands of students who will go and serve where my family cannot go.

“When I read Deuteronomy 23, all I can do is say, ‘Amen, praise the Lord,'” he said in closing. “The Lord turned the curse into a blessing, for the Lord my God loves me and he loves you too. The principle is not just operable for missionaries on the foreign field, it works for all of God’s covenant people.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: BLESSING FROM A CURSE.