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LEARNING TO SEE THE TRUE INTENT OF MAN'S HEART (PART IV)
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
12 FEBRUARY 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verse: (Proverbs 22:6)
Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Once again, in our study of learning to see the true intent of man’s heart, we return to our study of the life of Balaam.
As we read about the events in this period of the prophet’s life, we see a life, when viewed from a worldly standpoint, as being one that is devoted to the Lord; but as we look at it in the context of God's word, we see that Balaam is leading a double life.
He says all the right words, but there is something wrong with the way that he carries them out; and in our study today, we will hear him utter true Godly prophecies.
And the more we look at Balaam's life, the more we find ourselves asking questions about him:
Why has God devoted such a large portion of the Bible to the life of this prophet, and a non-Jewish prophet at that?
Is it because he will one day return wholeheartedly to the Lord?
Or is he just playing a game, and God wants us to be aware of this type of person?
Let's see if we can learn the answers to these questions, as we return to our study, beginning at Numbers 23:27.
27. Then Balak said to Balaam, "Please come, I will take you to another place; perhaps it will be agreeable with God that you curse them for me from there."
This is now the third time that they are doing this, and each previous time Balaam has said that he could only speak what the Lord put in his mouth.
And Balak has even said that he didn't want Balaam to curse or bless Israel; for instead of cursing them each time, Balaam has actually blessed them.
Then why would Balak think that a different location would be better and more
favorable to him?
Could it be that Balaam is somehow implying that there was something about the place that wasn’t proper, and that is giving Ba1ak false hope?
And could it also be that Balaam is being paid for each of his prophetic messages?
Let's return to our Scriptures and see.
28. So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor which overlooks the wasteland.
29. And Balaam said to Balak, "Build seven altars for me here and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me here."
30. And Balak did just as Balaam had said, and offered up a bull and a ram on each altar.
They have done exactly as they have done both previous times; God would let Balaam only bless Israel.
And since God's word is always the same, we know that Israel will be blessed again.
Balaam knows this; yet he is still having Balak build altars and make sacrifices, none of which mean anything except, perhaps, to increase God's anger.
What we are seeing is a game being played out.
The impression is that this ritualism is somehow going to bring about the desired result; that simply will not happen.
God does not operate that way. He seeks the true intent of man's heart, and not just the form of his behavior.
Let's see if we are correct, as we continue with chapter 24.
1. When Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not go as at other times to seek omens but he set his face toward the wilderness.
2. And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe; and the Spirit of God came upon him.
He didn't go to seek God.
Then why did the Spirit of God come upon him?
Could it be that he has repented from his former ways?
Or could it be that God is just protecting Israel?
As we continue, let's see if we get the answers to these questions.
3. And he took up his discourse and said,
"The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor,
And the oracle of the man whose eye is opened;
4. The oracle of him who hears the words of God,
Who sees the vision of the Almighty,
Falling down, yet having his eyes uncovered,
What Balaam is saying may be true, but the way in which he is saying it appears to be intended only to inflate his own ego by impressing those around him.
The true prophet of God glorifies God, and not himself.
Yet, at the same time, he has still sought the Lord; for in the end of verse 4, we see that as he lay prostrate on the ground without his mind all cluttered with worldly matters, God Almighty did come to him in a vision.
If Balaam really knows the truth, then why is he acting this way?
Let's return and hear what he says, as he picks up his message of blessing.
5. How fair are your tents, O Jacob,
Your dwellings, O Israel!
6. "Like valleys that stretch out,
Like gardens beside the river,
Like aloes planted by the Lord,
Like cedars beside the waters.
7. "Waters shall flow from his buckets,
And his seed shall be by many waters,
And his king shall be higher than Agag,
And his kingdom shall be exalted.
Here in verse 7, we see something else about false leaders and teachers of God; they may still be saying the truth at times, for God will protect His own as much as He can in order to bring them back to Him, if they are willing.
Balaam comes forth with a true prophetic message, and we have seen another in our New Testament lesson for this morning.
Agag was the king of Amalek, several hundred years after this message was uttered, in the days of Samuel and Saul, when Israel fought against Agag and Amalek and utterly destroyed them.
8. "God brings him out of Egypt,
He is for him like the horns of the wild ox.
He shall devour the nations who are his adversaries,
And shall crush their bones in pieces,
And shatter them with his arrows.
9. "He crouches, he lies down as a lion,
And as a lion, who dares rouse him?
Blessed is everyone who blesses you,
And cursed is everyone who curses you."
Note the ending of this blessing. All who bless Israel will be blessed, and all who curse will be cursed.
Could Balaam be giving a self fulfilling prophecy about Balak and himself?
So, what do you think happened next?
10. Then Balak's anger burned against Balaam, and he struck his hands together; and Balak said to Balaam, "I called you to curse my enemies, but behold, you have persisted in blessing them these three times!
11. "Therefore, flee to your place now. I said I would honor you greatly, but behold, the Lord has held you back from honor."
People still use this form of intimidation: Make it seem that the things of God are dull and boring and that there is no wealth or honor with God, and then blame God for withholding it from one who is following God.
We all too often fall into the trap of listening to this lie, and this is one of the main reasons that there is so much evil in the world today.
Christians, we are weak; and we just seem to go along with the things of the world and say that they aren't all that bad, when we know in our heart that they are.
But what will Balaam do when presented with this argument?
12. And Balaam said to Balak, "Did I not tell your messengers whom you had sent to me, saying,
13. 'Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything contrary to the command of the Lord, either good or bad, of my own accord. What the Lord speaks, that I will speak'?
14. "And now behold, I am going to my people; come, and I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the days to come."
15. And he took up his discourse and said,
The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor,
And the oracle of the man whose eye is opened,
16. The oracle of him who hears the words of God,
And knows the knowledge of the Most High,
Who sees the vision of the Almighty,
Falling down, yet having his eyes uncovered.
Like every one of us, Balaam has been given enough knowledge of God to discern the difference between that which God desires us to do and that which he does not want us to do.
None of us has any excuse for doing anything against the will of God.
We may forget and do something unintentionally, but for the most part, we knowingly participate in the evil of this world. In either case, we are sinning and we know it, if we are truly honest with ourselves and with God.
In his vision, Balaam even sees the coming of Jesus Christ.
17. "I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near;
A star shall come forth from Jacob,
And a scepter shall rise from Israel,
And shall crush through the forehead of Moab,
And tear down all the sons of Sheth.
How many people, right up to this very day, have had Jesus Christ revealed to them, yet they still do not receive Him?
Perhaps there is one right here with us who has never received Jesus Christ as his or her Lord and Savior; and if that is so, then today is the day of salvation for you. Do not pass it up. Do not go the way of Balaam and those he is prophesying against.
18. "And Edom shall be a possession,
Seir, its enemies, also shall be a possession,
While Israel performs valiantly.
19. "One from Jacob shall have dominion,
And shall destroy the remnant from the city."
20. And he looked at Amalek and took up his discourse and said,
“Amalek was the first of the nations,
But his end shall be destruction."
21. And he looked at the Kenite, and took up his discourse and said,
"Your dwelling place is enduring,
And your nest is set in the cliff.
22. "Nevertheless Kain shall be consumed;
How long shall Asshur keep you captive?"
23. And he took up his discourse and said,
"Alas, who can live except God has ordained it?
24. "But ships shall come from the coast of Kittim,
And they shall afflict Asshur and shall afflict Eber;
So they also shall come to destruction."
25. Then Balaam arose and departed and returned to his place, and Balak also went his way.
All that Balaam prophesied against these nations came true.
And all of them knew the truth about God, but they rejected the truth for the lie.
They rejected the truth, for they falsely thought that following God was too restrictive.
Following God brings our only true freedom, and yet we all too often fail to
see or acknowledge the truth.
The same continues to be true today, and it was just as true in Jesus' day here on earth.
In our New Testament lesson for this morning, John 11:45-53, we were told of such an account.
Let's take another look at these verses.
45. Many therefore of the Jews, who had come to Mary and beheld what He had done, believed in Him.
46. But some of them went away to the Pharisees, and told them the things which Jesus had done.
Why are they going away to share this good news with the Pharisees?
Is it because they wish that they would believe also?
No, for they themselves don't believe, and they carry with them only an evil intent contained in much hardened hearts.
And what happened when the Pharisees heard this report?
47. Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, "What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs.
48. "If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation."
By their own admission, we see that they knew the truth but they rejected it for their own personal reasons.
God had shown them throughout the ages that He would protect them, if they would only believe in Him and follow Him.
But they have rejected Him and His free gift of salvation, because of their own personal possessions.
So God answers their hardness of heart. Note the following verses:
49. But a certain one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all,
50. nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish."
51. Now this he did not say on his own initiative; but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,
52. and not for the nation only, but that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
Just like Balaam and Balak, these priests and Pharisees have been given the truth, but they didn't understand or didn't want to understand.
They believed that His death would hold together their nation and their land, which was not true; for 40 years later, their nation was destroyed and was no longer a nation for almost another 1900 years, until the year 1948.
Jesus’ death was to save all believers, from every nation all over the world, and not only Israel.
And the prophets had been telling Israel this for hundreds of years; yet they failed to see the truth, even when it was right in front of their noses.
53. So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.
What a tragic, tragic way to be; that anyone could desire the death of anyone for personal gain, let alone One who they knew to be of God.
Think about something else that has been going on for thousands of years...What humans have done to the innocent animals that God gave into our care.
Aren't human beings killing them for personal gain and lust?
We certainly don't need them for food, and we'd be a lot more healthier if we followed God's creation intent and ate only plant foods.
It's like we have seen, the people who go against God's will actually bring a curse upon themselves.
And what about us?
What are we doing?
Do we believe the truth?
Are we living like it and sharing it with others?
Beloved, Jesus' love is so great, He even prayed for those who persecuted Him, and He did it from the cross, saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
And, yes; He even prayed it for those who conspired against Him, so that they would come to repentance.
Do you realize He said that for you and me as well?
Are we hardened of heart, so that while knowing the truth, we reject it?
Or, has His message entered deep down into our souls and softened our hearts even more than they have been; that we would desire to serve Him more and more each day.
That we would even want to be like Him!
I pray so!