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LEARNING TO SEE THE TRUE INTENT OF MAN'S HEART (PART V)
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
19 FEBRUARY 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
31:8 and 16
2 Peter 2:15-16
Preparation Verse: (Isaiah 55:6)
Seek the Lord while He may be found:
Call upon Him while He is near.
As we left our study of Balaam, in our search to learn the true intent of man's
heart, he had departed for home.
Balak had brought Balaam to curse Israel, but each time he spoke openly, he blessed Israel.
Yet at the same time, we also saw that God was angry with him, and we questioned why.
But as we looked more and more into the life as well as the words of Balaam, we saw that he was living a double life.
Outwardly, Balaam spoke only good of Israel and even stated that he could speak nothing except what the Lord put in his mouth.
But inwardly, Balaam was more desirous of the prestige his position as prophet brought him and the riches that were bestowed on him.
Remember what Jesus tells us, as recorded in Matthew 6:19-24.
19. "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust
destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
20. "But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;
21. for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
The devil plays this game with us. He helps us to believe that the pursuit of
riches is the most important thing in the world, so that we might divert our
attention away from God.
Then he begins to destroy our riches, in the hope that we will worry so much about the loss that we will do almost anything to regain what was lost, and even get more.
He tried to play this game with Mary and me, right after we came to the Lord, but it didn't work.
We put our trust in the Lord, and He strengthened us, and we became stronger.
The devil’s tricks backfired on him, for we never expected to be in this position of serving God.
The same holds true for every one of us, if we will only trust in the Lord for all things.
And when we begin to understand this, we can discern between the godliness and ungodliness of others.
Note how Jesus expresses it. (Matthew 6:22-24)
22. The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole
body will be full of light.
23. "But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24. "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [money].
This was the problem with Balaam, and it is the problem with many people in the
But God has given us the eyes to see this inner darkness; for it is not really the darkness we see, but the absence of light.
This is seeing God's wisdom with our inner eyes.
So when we hear the words of a Balaam, godly though they may be, and they are not given with the light of a godly life, be on your guard.
Therefore, with this in mind let's return to our story of Balaam, beginning in Numbers 25, and see the result of his counsel to Balak, the quiet counsel that was given behind the scenes in the darkness but that is being brought to the light for all to see, if we truly desire to see.
1. While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to play the harlot with
the daughters of Moab.
2. For they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods.
3. So Israel joined themselves to Baal of Peor, and the Lord was angry against Israel.
At first glance we must ask ourselves, "Why would the men of Israel join
themselves with the daughters of Moab?"
And why would Moab go after Israel in this supposedly friendly fashion?
Wasn’t Moab afraid of Israel?
Didn’t Moab want Israel cursed so that they could defeat them in battle?
Then why invite Israel to dinner?
In our answer to these questions we see the craftiness of Satan and his followers.
Israel was a very morally proper people. They kept their bodies almost completely covered at all times when they were out of their tents, except when they were in a secluded place for purposes of bathing or relieving themselves; and this was particularly true of the women.
But this was not true of the Moabite and Midianite women. They only partially covered themselves, and exposed themselves in order to attract men.
Do you know a people like that today?
Well, one of the religious rites of the worshipers of Baal was the act of joining themselves to the temple prostitutes or other women who were present in their places of worship.
This drew away the weaker men of Israel, and made the Lord angry.
And who do you think it was that suggested to Balak, king of Moab, that this would be a way to defeat Israel?
Note the result:
4. And the Lord said to Moses, "Take all the leaders of the people and execute
them in broad daylight before the Lord, so that the fierce anger of the Lord may
turn away from Israel."
5. So Moses said to the judges of Israel, "Each of you slay his men who have joined themselves to Baal of Peor."
Moab is not defeating Israel; their own lusts are defeating them, for God is having the faithful leaders of Israel kill all the men who are participating before Baal.
6. Then behold, one of the sons of Israel came and brought to his relatives a Midianite woman, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, while they were weeping at the doorway of the tent of meeting.
This man has brought his lustful feelings out into the open. What was known to
be done in darkness was now being brought into the light for all to see.
This is much like our television programming and movies, which is so commonplace that our whole society is beginning to act this way.
And in the midst of this, there is no place for the cross of Christ.
So what happened when this blatant act was brought before all of Israel?
7. When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he
arose from the midst of the congregation, and took a spear in his hand;
8. and he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and pierced both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman, through the body. So the plague on the sons of Israel was checked.
9. And those who died by the plague were 24,000.
Not only did Israel kill some of the men, who joined themselves to Baal, but God
also sent a plague to destroy the people for their complacency in this act; but
even this plague didn't prevent them from following their sinful lusts.
But there is a way of being saved from our sins and the death it brings.
We must be pierced through the body until we are dead, or we must find someone else who is willing to be pierced through and die in our place.
The love of God sent Jesus to do just that.
But unless we individually repent and accept what He did for us personally, Jesus didn't die for us. He was not our substitution. He may have been someone else's substitution, but He wasn't ours.
If we are to be saved, each of us must accept Him personally.
Note what the Lord said about Phinehas:
10. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
11. "Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel, in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy.
12. "Therefore say, 'Behold, I give him My covenant of peace;
13. and it shall be for him and his descendants after him, a covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God, and made atonement for the sons of Israel.' "
As long as we Christians just sit back and accept the ungodly acts of our society, and say and do nothing, we become partially guilty for their acts; and the plagues that they bring upon themselves may also affect us.
The most obvious of these ungodly practices is what most humans do to the non-human animals for their flesh, fur, research, and entertainmant.
Way back in the beginning, God gave humans the responsibility to care for the whole of creation, and eat a plant food diet.
Instead, we exploited and tortured the animals, depriving them of their God-given rights to live their lives as He intented then to live, and we are poluting the environment in which we all live.
For this we need to recognize these ungodly and sinful acts and repent and
return to God's creation intent wholeheartedly.
When we stand up for the Lord, and say and do what is right before the entire world, then the Lord will hear our prayers and answer us; and He will expose the guilty and defeat our enemies before us, as He did with Israel.
14. Now the name of the slain man of Israel, who was slain with the Midianite
woman, was Zimri the son of Salu, a leader of a father's household among the
15. And the name of the Midianite woman who was slain was Cozbi the daughter of Zur, who was head of the people of a father’s household in Midian.
16. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
17. "Be hostile to the Midianites and strike them;
18. for they have been hostile to you with their tricks, with which they have deceived you in the affair of Peor, and in the affair of Cozbi, the daughter of the leader of Midian, their sister who was slain on the day of the plague because of Peor."
Do you note the expression "for they have been hostile...with their tricks"?
This is still one of the main ways that Satan uses to lead us astray today. He uses those whom he can lead astray to lead others away into sin.
This was the counsel of Balaam.
And what happened to Balaam because of this?
Note what we are told in Numbers 31:8.
8. And they killed the kings of Midian along with the rest of their slain: Evi and Rekem and Zur and Hur and Reba, the five kings of Midian; they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword.
We see the confirmation of Balaam's character in verse 16, as the sentence of death is being proclaimed against the Midianite woman.
16. "Behold, these caused the sons of Israe1, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the Lord.
This message and example of the evil counsel of Balaam is so important to the
Lord's message for us that it is mentioned in not less than seven other Books of
God wants us to learn to see the true intent of man's heart, so that we cannot be led astray.
In Deuteronomy 23:3-6, the Lord condemns the Ammonites and the Moabites, the descendants of Lot, the nephew of Abraham, to the tenth generation, for their hardness of heart, because they didn't meet Israel with hospitality, but instead hired Balaam against them.
And in Joshua 13:22 and 24:9-10, the story of Balaam is used as an example of how the Lord will protect those who love Him from their enemies.
After the captivity of Israel in Babylon, the Lord again reminds Israel, in Nehemiah 13:1-3 through this example of Balaam, why they were led astray, and that they should be careful with whom they associate.
The prophet Micah also uses this example to remind the people of God's message in verse 6:5.
These examples are not limited to the Old Testament. The Lord uses this message in the New Testament as well.
The entire second chapter of 2 Peter is devoted to the denouncing of false teachers and telling us how to recognize them, as we have been doing with Balaam; and Peter does the same in verses 15 and 16.
Jude, in verse 11, also uses this example of Balaam in order to caution us not to sell ourselves out for monetary and prestigious gain, and thus perish as Balaam and others did.
In Revelation 2:12-17, the Lord is giving the church at Pergamum, and us today, a very important message:
12. "And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this:
13. '1 know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith, even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
14. 'But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit acts of immorality.
15. 'Thus you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
16. 'Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.
17. 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.'
This is why Jesus died for us; and if we repent, then it is all for us as well.
We can overcome the sins of the world and the times we live in.
It is as it was with the thief who died on the cross next to Jesus, as we heard in Wednesday's Lenten Service, from Luke 23:39-43, and in particular, verses 42 and 43:
42. And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!"
43. And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."
Have you called out to Jesus as this thief did?
And if you have repented, have you heard Jesus respond, and been given the
assurance of everlasting life?
Or, are you doing as the other thief did, who was still following the teachings of Balaam?
It's not too late. Jesus is right here with us, and He will hear you, if you call out with an honest and repentant heart.
He really and truly wants you to be with Him forever.