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LEARNING TO SEE THE TRUE INTENT OF MAN'S HEART (PART III)
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
5 February 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verse: (Matthew 9:36)
And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.
As we have been doing during the past two weeks, we are going to continue with our learning to see the true intent of man's heart.
As you will probably recall in our story of Balaam, he appears to be doing everything that God wants him to do; but at the same time, we found out that God was angry with him, and we have been asking ourselves several questions about his behavior.
We ended our last lesson by asking:
Was Balaam truly sorry and repentant after his conversations with his donkey
and the angel of the Lord?
Or, we asked, was he just sorry he got caught?
And, will he turn back to the Lord and do all that He desires him to do?
Now, let's return to our story where we left off at Numbers 22:36 and see what happens next.
36. When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the city of Moab, which is on the Arnon border, at the extreme end of the border.
37. Then Balak said to Balaam, "Did I not urgently send to you to call you? Why did you not come to me? Am I really unable to honor you?"
Balak still seems to see Balaam as a man of pride who is only interested in worldly possessions and inflating his ego.
Let's see how Balaam responds.
38. So Balaam said to Balak, "Behold, I have come now to you! Am I able to speak anything at all? The word that God puts in my mouth, that I shall speak."
39. And Balaam went with Balak, and they came to
So far, so good. Maybe he is now listening to God, as God wants him to listen and act.
40. And Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep, and sent some to Balaam and the leaders who were with him.
Why is Balak sacrificing?
And to whom is he sacrificing?
If he were sacrificing to God, to seek direction, then why would he send some to Balaam?
And we also need to remember that God desires obedience and not sacrifice, so such a sacrificial act is definite against God’s will.
41. Then it came about in the morning that Balak took Balaam, and brought him up to the high places of Baal; and he saw from there a portion of the people.
Here we get the answer to one of our questions.
If Balak was sacrificing to the Lord, then why would he take Balaam up to the high places of Baal?
The answer is that he wouldn't. Therefore, even with all of the preparation he has made, Balak is still going after false gods.
But what about Balaam? What is he going to do?
Let's see, as we continue our story with chapter 23.
1. Then Balaam said to Balak, "Build seven altars for me here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me here."
Here? Where is here? It is at one of the high places of Baal. It is a place that God abhors greatly.
Balaam is more and more showing his true colors. He is trying to have the best of both worlds.
Balaam wants the riches and prestige that Balak offers him and, at the same time, he seems to want God.
But why does he want God?
It appears that he only wants God for what it will bring him.
2. And Balak did just as Balaam had spoken, and Balak and Balaam offered up a bull and a ram on each altar.
Balaam has done what so many false teachers of God's word have done. They have watered down His word so as to make it appealing to the world, so that they can have it without truly repenting.
And Balak responds to it; for he sees his sacrifices to Baal as being the same as to God.
This is the same as those who falsely teach and say, "If you confess Jesus with your mouth and say the sinners prayer, then you are saved and can do anything you want, for all your future sins are forgiven."
That statement sounds correct, but it is false; for it is taken out of context.
Note what we are told in Romans 10:8-10.
8. But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" – that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,
9. that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved;
10. for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
The key is that we are to not only confess Jesus as Lord, but we are to believe in our heart; and when we do it, it results in righteousness by grace and, at the same time, the desire to live righteously and not to keep on sinning.
We cannot sacrifice to Baal and expect God to be pleased.
In fact, no sacrifice is pleasing to God.
Now note what Balaam does:
3. Then Balaam said to Balak, "Stand beside your burnt offering, and I will go; perhaps the Lord will come to me, and whatever He shows me I will tell you." So he went to a bare hill.
Balaam knew all the time that God would not appear to him on the hill of Baal, so he went to a bare hill. But he encouraged Balak to sin further, and left him with his sin and with the false hope that God would change His mind.
4. Now God met Balaam, and he said to Him, "I have set up the seven altars, and I have offered up a bull and a ram on each altar."
God had not told Balaam to build the altars, as such altars and sacrifices are abominations to the Lord, and Balaam seems just to be trying to "con" God, which we all know or should know is impossible.
God does not respond to Balaam's arrogance, but just tells him what he is to say.
5. Then the Lord put a word in Balaam's mouth and said, "Return to Balak, and you shall speak thus."
6. So he returned to him, and behold, he was standing beside his burnt offering, he and all the leaders of Moab.
7. And he took up his discourse and said,
"From Aram Balak has brought me,
Moab's king from the mountains of the East,
'Come curse Jacob for me,
And come, denounce Israel!'
8. "How shall I curse, whom God has not cursed?
And how can I denounce, whom the Lord has not denounced?
9. "As I see him from the top of the rocks,
And I look at him from the hills;
Behold, a people who dwells apart,
And shall not be reckoned among the nations.
10. "Who can count the dust of Jacob,
Or number the fourth part of Israel?
Let me die the death of the upright,
And let my end be like his!"
This oration of Balaam's surely was not a curse. It was a blessing.
And to show that Balaam really knew what God wanted of him, he even expresses the desire of his heart as God desires him to live, so that he would die sharing the blessings of Israel.
So what happens?
11. Then Balak said to Balaam, "What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, but behold, you have actually blessed them!"
12. And he answered and said, "Must I not be careful to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?"
13. Then Balak said to him, "Please come with me to another place from where you may see them, although you will only see the extreme end of them, and will not see all of them; and curse them for me from there."
For Balak to continue in this way, he must have been given some encouragement from Balaam.
Balaam is playing a dangerous game. He knows the truth, but he is still playing with Satan; and God will not stand for that.
14. So he took him to the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.
15. And he said to Balak, "Stand here beside your burnt offering, while I myself meet the Lord yonder."
Note that the same situation is being set up.
We are a very immature race if we think that if we just slightly vary our improper request, God will consider it proper.
God's word is always the same. Note the following verses:
16. Then the Lord met Balaam and put a word in his mouth and said, "Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak."
17. And he came to him, and behold, he was standing beside his burnt offering, and the leaders of Moab with him. And Balak said to him, "What has the Lord spoken?"
18. Then he took up his discourse and said,
"Arise, O Balak, and hear;
Give ear to me, O Son of Zippor!
19. "God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent;
Has He said, and will He not do it?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
20. "Behold, I have received a command to bless;
When He has blessed, then I cannot revoke it.
21. "He has not observed misfortune in Jacob;
Nor has He seen trouble in Israel;
The Lord his God is with him,
And the shout of a king is among them.
22. "God brings them out of Egypt,
He is for them like the horns of the wild ox.
23. "For there is no omen against Jacob.
Nor is there any divination against Israel;
At the proper time it shall be said to Jacob
And to Israel, what God has done.
24. "Behold, a people rises like a lioness,
And as a lion it lifts itself;
It shall not lie down until it devours the prey,
And drinks the blood of the slain."
And once again Balaam has blessed Israel.
25. Then Balak said to Balaam, "Do not curse them at all nor bless them at all!"
26. But Balaam answered and said to Balak, "Did I not tell you, 'Whatever the Lord speaks, that I must do'?"
As we have said before, everything that Balaam seems to be doing outwardly seems to be according to the Lord's wishes, but God showed His displeasure of Balaam's actions.
God sees the heart of all of us, and Balaam is no exception.
And why has God devoted several chapters of the Bible to this particular man?
There must be something significant about his life, and an important message for all of us to learn from our study of these Scriptures.
Is it that Balaam will wholeheartedly return to God?
Or is it that he is not truly desirous of following God, but is only playing a game?
Ponder this over in your minds this coming week, and return next week at this same time for the next exciting chapter in the life of Balaam.
Now let’s look at Mark 8:14-21 in the New Testament.
14 And they had forgotten to take bread; and did not have more than one loaf in the boat with them.
15 And He was giving orders to them, saying, "Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod."
16 And they began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread.
17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart?
18 "Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember,
19 when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?" They said to Him," Twelve."
20 "And when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?" And they said to Him, "Seven."
21 And He was saying to them, "Do you not yet understand?"
How many of you like to bake?
Do you do a good job?
What about some of those failures?
Have you ever tried to make bread?
You get out all of the ingredients. You add the yeast to the warm water with a little flour, and at the same time you measure and mix together the dry ingredients.
Then you put everything together, mix it thoroughly, and let it rest for a while in a warm place.
It starts to get bigger and bigger, and you can just imagine how nice the finished loaf is going to be.
Then after a little while you push it down, and wait again for it to rise, that is, unless you are making whole grain bread, which only needs to rise once.
And finally you take the dough and form it into the shape of the loaf you desire and, with great anticipation, place it in the oven to bake.
Then it is done.
It's all golden brown on the outside and smells just heavenly.
You set it on the table and cut it before everyone, and inside are these big gaping holes, and around the holes the bread is tough and it's not at all what you thought it was going to be.
And maybe there was that other time when you were baking an apple pie, and it looked just beautiful when you put it into the oven.
And as it began to bake, you would sneak a peek at it from time to time, and it looked ever more beautiful.
Then it was done, and you took it out of the oven, all high and rounded on top, and oh that good smell!
Then when you cut it, you found all the fruit on the bottom and a big hollow spot on top.
And then there was that time when you were baking that special birthday cake, and you put it into the oven, and while baking it got jarred and came out looking like a flat tire.
In similar ways, we also seem to bake ourselves.
We puff ourselves up inside and try to look beautiful to all who are around us.
But sometimes those around us take a look on the inside and come to realize that we are just full of a lot of hot air.
They may even stick a pin into us, and we become deflated and flat, for there was very little real substance in all that puff.
This is exactly what Jesus was telling His disciples.
He was warning them about the puff of the Pharisees that was nothing but hypocrisy and about the example that Herod set that was based upon secularism and worldliness.
He was trying to teach them to see the true intent of man's heart.
Jesus was offering them, and us today, Himself – our true bread of life; that whoever eats of that bread with a pure heart, shall never die, but have everlasting life.