Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
LEARNING TO SEE THE TRUE INTENT OF MAN'S HEART (PART I)
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
22 JANUARY 1989
By Frank l. Hoffman, Pastor
Numbers 21:21-24, 33-35
1 Samuel 16:7
Preparation Verse: (1 Samuel 16:7)
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Last week we talked about looking into our own heart, and seeing if it is
truly filled with God's love.
We also talked about seeing each other with the love that God has for each of us, and to pray for those that we have trouble loving.
We even mentioned people who were evil, and that it is God's desire that we
should pray for them, so that they might be convicted and come to repentance.
And all of this that we talked about was based on the fact that we need a compassionate heart toward all of God's creation (every other human being, every other animal, and the environment in which we all live).
This week, and perhaps for the next several weeks, we are going to look at others in the hope of learning the true intent of their hearts, and whether or not we should follow them and their teaching.
The way that we talk and act gives away the true intent of our heart; and if we look carefully, with the insight God gives us in His Word and through the unction of the Holy Spirit, we can discern the true intent of the heart.
We may not be worthy enough to bring judgment and condemnation upon anyone, but we are called upon to discern the character of both ourselves and others.
We may be able to pretend to others that we are something we are not, but sooner or later, we will slip up and show our true colors; and it has nothing to do with the color of our skin.
If people are truly God's servants, then their lifestyle will reflect that holy relationship; but if not, then their lifestyle will reflect the ways of the devil, no matter how strongly they try to hide it, for sooner or later, what they do in darkness will come to the light.
Out in the world there are many false teachers who try to turn people away from God, or who prey on God's people for their own personal gain.
If we read our Bibles consistently, daily, and in a manner that will allow us to read the entire Bible at least once a year, we will have less trouble discerning the false teachers who try to lead God's people astray; for they will take God's word out of context and twist it to prove their own point.
This is what the serpent did when he led Adam and Eve astray, and it is what Satan tried unsuccessfully to do with Jesus while He was in the wilderness.
The other type of false teacher is harder to discern, for he says all kinds of flowery words that sound like they are right out of the Bible, and most of them are; but in their teaching is the cry for personal gain or prestige, and we are not to be blind to it, nor are we to participate in their actions.
In this study of God's Word, we will be taking a look at an Old Testament prophet named Balaam, and we will also look at the Jewish leaders, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, in the time of Jesus' ministry on earth. And we will see if we can discern the true intent of their hearts.
We pick up our story of Balaam in Numbers 22, after Israel was just completing their forty years of wandering in the wilderness, following their exodus from Egypt.
They were journeying up along the eastern side of the Jordan River, where they were attacked by Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan; and Israel defeated them and took all their lands (Numbers 21:21-24, 33-35). Now, let’s take a look at Numbers 22:
1. Then the sons of Israel journeyed, and camped in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan opposite Jericho.
It was God's plan to lead Israel into Canaan from this campsite, and not to continue any of the fighting on the eastern side of the Jordan.
2. Now Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.
3. So Moab was in great fear because of the people, for they were numerous; and Moab was in dread of the sons of Israel.
Israel considered Moab to be a "relative" for they were the descendants of Lot,
Abraham's nephew; but because Moab had turned away from God, they were fearful.
What Israel had just done should have convinced Moab that God was fighting for them, that they should come to repentance, and God would have forgiven them; but they were blind and deaf to what God was showing them.
4. And Moab said to the elders of Midian, "Now this horde will lick up all that
is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field." And Balak the son of
Zippor was king of Moab at that time.
5. So he sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor, at Pethor, which is near the River, in the land of the sons of his people, and to call him, saying, "Behold, a people came out of Egypt; behold, they cover the surface of the land, and they are living opposite me.
6. "Now therefore, please come, curse this people for me since they are too mighty for me; perhaps I may be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed."
Balaam must have had quite a reputation as a prophet, for they went several
hundred miles to get him.
And what is even more interesting is that Balak, the king of Moab, thought more of turning to a man, this particular man, for protection, than turning to God.
People, all through the ages, we have been making this same mistake.
We emulate the person instead of God.
And even when we know that God is the one doing a particular thing through a person, we still put the person before God, thinking that he is the only one in whom is the power of God.
God is not partial to anyone; if we seek Him with a pure heart, we will find Him directly. We don't need to go through anyone else.
But Moab, like so many others, didn't consider this option.
7. So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fees for divination in their hand; and they came to Balaam and repeated Balak's words to him.
Here we see one of the caution signs.
If a person is truly a servant of God, then you don't have to give them anything in order for them to pray for you.
The people obviously thought that this offering was required in order to get what they wanted. Perhaps it was because of something they heard about Balaam.
Let's see how Balaam reacts to this request.
8. And he said to them, "Spend the night here, and I will bring word back to you as the Lord may speak to me." And the leaders of Moab stayed with Balaam.
Balaam's answer sounds fairly good, doesn't it?
Let's continue to listen in on what happens next.
9. Then God came to Balaam and said, "Who are these men with you?"
10. And Balaam said to God, "Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent word to me,
11. “Behold, there is a people who came out of Egypt and they cover the surface of the land; now come, curse them for me; perhaps I may be able to fight against them, and drive them out.”
12. And God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them; you, shall not curse the people; for they are blessed."
Wow! This man was able to talk directly with God. He must really be important!
If God tells us to do something, and not to do something else, what would we do?
Let's see if Balaam does what God told him to do.
13. So Balaam arose in the morning and said to Balak's leaders, "Go back to your
land; for the Lord has refused to let me go with you."
14. And the leaders of Moab arose and went to Balak, and said, "Balaam refused to come with us."
Balaam seems to have done all that the Lord has commanded him to do.
And in verse 13 we see the prophet delivering a second reminder, a second warning, to Balak; that he should repent and seek the Lord directly, as to what he and Moab should do about Israel.
If God did not let Balaam go with them to curse Israel, then it should have been enough to warn Balak that God was on Israel’s side; but according to verse 14, his men didn’t tell him this.
Is Balaam a true prophet of God?
Is his heart truly set upon doing all that the Lord wants him to do?
Will Balak receive the message from God, repent, and seek God's direction?
Stay tuned for the next exciting chapter about the life of Balaam, right here, at the same time next week, and see what answers we get to our questions.
Balaam and Balak, not being Israelites, may make it harder to perceive exactly what their true character is really like.
With the leaders of the Jewish people, we would expect to find true holiness and righteousness, for they are the chosen people of God and are blessed, as we saw in the story of Balaam.
But, as we heard in our New Testament lesson for this morning, this was not the case.
Let's take a second look at these verses from Mark 3:1-6.
1. And He [Jesus] entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there with a
2. And they [the leaders] were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, in order that they might accuse Him.
Even if the Pharisees didn't realize that Jesus was their Messiah, surely they
had to realize that such powers could only be coming from God.
Why then would they act this way?
Why wouldn't they want the man with the withered hand to be healed?
Why would they want to accuse Jesus?
What better day could there be than the Sabbath, when all were in the synagogue, to show everyone that God was with them and that He was still performing miracles?
Why would anyone feel this way?
Because their pride was the most important thing in their lives.
Because they were leaders of the temple, and liked all the attention they got.
Because the traditions and the Law, and the Temple itself, were more important
than the God who gave them all.
Don’t we do the same thing today?
Don’t we fight with one another over church doctrine, and claim that one Christian denomination is better than another?
And when we do this, we are no better than the Pharisees of this synagogue.
Jesus had just finished explaining to them the true intent of the Sabbath. Let's take a look at these verses from Mark 2:27-28.
27. And He was saying to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for
28. "Consequently, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."
And do you remember what we are told in Colossians 1:16?
16. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created by Him and for Him.
Since all things and positions were created by and for Jesus, then the Sabbath
is His, as well as its purpose.
All of the people, including us today, were to stop work one day a week, and rest.
But this does not mean just to lie around and watch television; it was to be a time to reflect upon the Lord.
It was to be a time when we would not be all cluttered-up with the cares of the day.
It was a day to catch us from going astray; for if all we do is work and seek money, it is very likely to become an idol before God.
Therefore, God wants us to observe all that He has for us and reflect on it, on this Sabbath day; and thus was the case with this particular synagogue.
The miracles were taking the people’s eyes off the temple leaders and placing them back upon God, and this was hurting the idol of pride within them.
And knowing their intention, Jesus went on doing what He intended to do.
3. And He said to the man with the withered hand, "Rise and come forward!"
His command was spoken with profound emphasis and authority.
It was spoken in a manner that would bring hope to the man with the withered hand, and fear to those who opposed Him.
Then He turned toward the leaders –
4. And He said to them, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save a life or to kill?" But they kept silent.
Jesus' question had only one answer, and their silence was proof that they also knew the truth.
5. And after looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
Yes, Jesus was angry with the Pharisees; but more importantly, He was grieved at
He loved the Pharisees as well as the man with the withered hand, and their turning away and their hardness of heart hurt the Lord as much or perhaps more than you would be hurt, if a loved one turned on you.
But the Lord didn't walk away from the man in need, but just said, simply, "Stretch out your hand."
And the man didn't argue with Him.
He didn't say, "I can't; my hand is withered." He just stretched it out in faith, and it was restored perfectly.
And in the same manner, if the Pharisees had reached out to Him with their withered and hardened hearts, they would have been restored as well.
But they didn't.
6. And the Pharisees went out and immediately began taking counsel with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.
What a truly sorry state of affairs.
They were in the presence of Almighty God, but they rejected Him.
Beloved, we see people like these Pharisees all the time; and we far too often follow along with them.
And even after their sins are exposed, many will still follow along blindly.
Why does this happen?
Why don't we see?
Because we are poor and wretched and blind.
We are poor because we have no wealth of knowledge of what God has stored up for each of us.
And we are wretched because we have the Lord's treasure chest directly in front of us, and we knowingly refuse to open it.
And we are blind because on the few occasions we open His treasure chest, we just rummage through it and never really see all of its treasure.
All the answers we will ever need to seek the Lord our God with a pure heart are contained within the pages of our Bibles.
And all the insight we will ever need to recognize the true intent of our hearts is there, too.
I also grieve in my heart because so many have not accepted and used this gift of God.
Won't you please do so?