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LEARNING TO SEE THE TRUE INTENT OF MAN'S HEART (PART II)
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
29 JANUARY 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
2 Timothy 3:16-17
Preparation: (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
16. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
17. that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
Last week in our learning to see the true intent of man's heart, we took a look at Balaam, an Old Testament non-Jewish prophet.
In our beginning study of him, we saw that he seemed to do all that the Lord told him to do.
When Balak, king of Moab, sent for him, he refused to go with his men; for the Lord had told him not to go with them to curse Israel, for they were blessed.
Let's pick up our story where we left off last week at Numbers 22:15 and see if we can answer the questions we posed in closing our previous lesson:
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, and repent and seek God's direction?
15. Then Balak again sent leaders, more numerous and more distinguished than the former.
It seems obvious, at least at this point in our lesson, that Balak didn't receive the message from the Lord.
But in looking at this verse, we are left with another question. Why would Balak think that Balaam would respond to this more prestigious request?
16. And they came to Balaam and said to him, "Thus says Balak the son of Zippor, 'Let nothing, I beg you, hinder you from coming to me;
17. for I will indeed honor you richly, and I will do whatever you say to me. Please come then, curse this people for me.' "
That's quite an offer. What would we do in such a circumstance, and what did Balaam do?
18. And Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, "Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the command of the Lord my God.
He sure sounds like the Hebrew prophets. His answer appears to be standing firmly upon the word of God.
But Balaam continues to speak.
19. "And now please, you also stay here tonight, and I will find out what else the Lord will speak to me."
Here we see a departure from the ways of a true prophet of God, for the word of God from the previous visit is still true; and the true Hebrew prophet would have sent them away with the words of the previous message.
But Balaam is not a Hebrew, and perhaps he doesn't know all the ways of the Lord.
Let's see what happens.
20. And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, "If the men have come to call you, rise up and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you shall you do."
Why would God seem to be changing His mind?
Perhaps He has something else in mind.
Or perhaps God has not changed His mind.
21. So Balaam arose in the morning, and saddled his donkey, and went with the leaders of Moab.
22. But God was angry because he was going, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him.
Wait a moment!
Something is wrong!
Didn’t God tell Balaam to go with them?
Then why is God angry with Balaam for going?
Here is a very important message for us. God's word is always the same. He does not say something one time, and mean something else the next time.
And if we are not reading our Bibles daily, we can easily fall into this trap.
But Balaam doesn't seem to be falling into a trap; or is he? For if he wasn't, God would not be so angry.
Perhaps Balaam is doing this by intent.
Let's see what happens next.
23. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand, the donkey turned off from the way and went into the field; but Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back into the way.
Isn't it interesting that the donkey could see the angel of the Lord and Balaam couldn't?
Is this some special gift that was given to only this donkey, or do all animals retain the ability to see into the spiritual realm?
Could it be that only human beings lost this ability when they fell from God's grace in Eden?
These are interesting questions to ponder, but for now we need to return to Balaam and his donkey.
God is not unjust; and for Him to send an angel to slay Balaam, we have a very good indication that Balaam should have known better.
It is also an indication that the intent of Balaam was upon the riches and prestige offered him, and he was seeking a way to have both God and the riches – a near fatal mistake if it hadn't been for the donkey.
God wants a pure heart.
We cannot put the things of the world before God and still expect to have God.
So what happens to Balaam after this?
24. Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path of the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side.
25. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she pressed herself to the wall and pressed Balaam's foot against the wall, so he struck her again.
26. And the angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn to the right hand or the left.
27. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam was angry and struck the donkey with his stick.
God could have brought down fire from heaven to destroy Balaam and all who were with him, but He didn't.
Because God is a God of love, and He will go to a great distance to bring a sinner back to Him.
He is trying every way to get Balaam to turn back from the evil intent of his heart.
Look what happens next:
28. And the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?"
29. Then Balaam said to the donkey, "Because you have made a mockery of me! If there had been a sword in my hand, I would have killed you by now."
30. And the donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I ever been accustomed to do so to you?" And he said "No."
The way this conversation is going, one would think they were accustomed to talking to one another; but this is not the case.
The real reason is told to us in verse 29. Balaam's pride is the over all driving force in his life.
The fact that the others were mocking him because of the actions of his donkey, and that he would even consider killing her, his lifelong companion, tells us that he is mostly interested in himself, and loves himself far more than God – if in fact he feels anything for the Lord, other than what it will bring him.
But contrary to Balaam's feeling, the Lord still has regard and love for Balaam.
31. Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed all the way to the ground.
32. And the angel of the Lord said to him, "Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was contrary to me.
33. "But the donkey saw me and turned aside from me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, I would surely have killed you just now, and let her live."
The donkey was being obedient to the Lord, and Balaam was not.
God is here showing his compassion for all who would obey Him.
He is telling this to Balaam (and to us), so that Balaam might turn from his evil ways and truly seek the Lord.
34. And Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, "I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the way against me. Now then, if it is displeasing to you, I will turn back."
35. But the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, "Go with the men, but you shall speak only the word which I shall tell you." So Balaam went along with the leaders of Balak.
Was Balaam truly sorry and repentant?
Or was he just sorry that he got caught?
Will he turn back to the Lord and do all that He desires him to do?
Once again you will have to stay tuned until next week to find out the answer; that is, unless you are reading the same book that I am.
Sometimes we think we know the Lord; then, even when He is right in our presence, we fail to recognize Him.
But we say that such a thing could never happen; yet in Mark 3:20-21, we see it happening.
20. And He [Jesus] came home, and the multitude gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal.
21. And when His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, "He has lost His senses."
Many of these same people, who are gathering around Him, believe that He is their Messiah; yet their faith is limited to the outward signs He manifests.
They seem unable to trust in Him fully and wait for Him to do everything in His own time.
There is selfishness in their attitude.
They want only what He can do for them.
There is little or no concern for what they can do for each other in the name of the Lord.
They don't even respect Him enough to let Him eat a meal.
Yet none of this seems to have very much effect on Jesus; and He probably responded as He always does, reaching out and touching those in need.
His compassion sees far beyond our limited faith, but His desire is that we would mature and come to see Him as He is.
His lack of concern for worldly things and needs, such as food, and His desire to accomplish as much as He can in the short time He was upon the earth has caused His family and friends to fear that the has lost His mind.
They see the Lord as only a man, and not as God.
They cannot relate to things of heaven, because they do not as yet understand the things of earth.
Their attitude is one of "give-me, give-me" and not one of "Whatever you have for me, Lord, I will gratefully receive and do with it all that You desire me to do."
They could not understand His totally unselfish attitude.
In our Bibles, God has laid out His plan of salvation, and everything else we will ever need to know about Him and about the way we are to live; yet we so often fail to read and study His message, and thus we remain in ignorance.
As we continue with these verses in the third chapter of Mark, we see an even worse situation develop.
22. And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," and "He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons."
They are denying that God has anything to do with the miracles that Jesus is performing, and in fact are saying that He is doing everything by the power of Satan.
And the most amazing thing about this is that the scribes were the learned men of the Bible; and the Hebrew text, which they studied, spoke loudly and clearly of His coming, but because of their hardness of heart, they could not recognize Him.
And does Jesus bring down fire from heaven upon them?
He just continues to reach out to them in love.
23. And He called them to Himself and began speaking to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan?
24. "And if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
25. "And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.
26. "And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finished!
Some people think that very similar words to these originated with Abraham Lincoln, and became part of his message to our country concerning slavery, but they were not Abe's; they were just loaned to him by the Lord.
The Lord will loan all of His words, and even more, to us; if we will only receive and act upon them.
And once we begin to act upon them, we will find that He has really given them to us for as long as we want them.
But the scribes could not (or would not) understand, and the Lord continues His message in somewhat stronger terms.
27. "But no one can enter the strong man's house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house.
When there is unrepented sin in our lives, when the lust of the eye or the lust of the flesh or the boastful pride of life comes before God, we bind ourselves with them.
In essence we have been bound by the devil, and he can come in and plunder us, and he does a good job of it, too.
But note that the passage says, "no one can enter the strong man's house." Jesus is here telling them, and us, that in God we have strength, and that this strength is so strong that no one can enter because of it.
Yet even strength that strong can be bound by sin.
Jesus is trying to lead them to the cross of repentance, as He is trying to do for every one of us.
But even with the great love that He has been showing, and the forgiveness of sin that he is offering, He delivers a warning.
28. "Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter;
29. but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"
30. because they were saying, "He has an unclean spirit."
Here, Jesus Christ is saying that because He will be dying on the cross for all sinners, everything we do will be forgiven us, even blasphemies; but there is a limit.
When we go so far as to attribute the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan, we have crossed the line of the limit of Christ's work upon the cross. We have left the earthly environs of our sinful state, and tried to bring them into heaven; and this will not be forgiven.
In our world today, there are many "spiritual" teachers that I believe have crossed this line, and they are trying to lead others into hell with them.
But in Jesus Christ we have the strength to withstand any onslaught of the devil.
But unless we seek our Lord with all of our heart and with all of our soul and with all of our strength, we may not recognize the onslaught coming.
And God keeps calling to us:
"Please hear My words!"
"Please listen to Me!"
"From the very beginning, I have been trying to free you from your life of sin and death!"
"And in My great love for you, I even gave My Son, My only Son, for you, so that you might believe in Him and repent and live for ever with Me in heaven!"
Receive what God has for you.
Seek Him and you will find Him; and all the chains of sin that bind us will fall off.
Don't follow along with all of the flowery words of self-seeking people that are intent on bringing death and destruction.
Follow along with His words that are recorded in our Bibles, and we will learn to have the mind of Christ; for we shall be like Him.