Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Seven Letters, Part 3: The Balaam Heart Condition

"And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: 'The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, an I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no on knows except the one who receives it.'" Revelations 2:12-17


Knock. Knock. Knock 

Balaam heard the knock in his spirit before the man outside even made the fist to knock.

He had been expecting them.

Balak, the king of Moab, had sent a party of elders to him. Balak wanted him to return with the elders, and curse the mighty nation that had come out of Egypt.

The people of Israel.

Balaam had heard a lot about them. They had conquered every nation in their path, on the way to their "promised land." They had the Lord on their side. A Lord Balaam knew well.

A Lord who had already told Balaam not to go to Moab.

I'll just see what they have to say. What's the harm? Maybe they will even give me some more money to try and sway my decision.

Balaam went to the door of his home, and swung it wide open, grinning greedily at the group before him. Princes from Moab, in their finest clothing, littered the courtyard of his home. The setting sun behind them blazed with fury and might, only strengthening the rich appearance they portrayed. They held an allure that Balaam wanted so badly to partake of and enjoy its fruits.

A stout man, clearly the highest ranking official in the group, cleared his throat. "Balak, King of Moab says, 'Do not let anything hinder you from coming to me. I will greatly honor you." The man had a suggestive gleam in his eye, and Balaam's eye's swung to the overflowing satchels hanging from each beast of burden. "Whatever you say to me, I will do." The man's voice dropped to an eerie, ominous tone. Balaam felt a cold creep up his back. The kind of cold that unsettles your spirit, making you sure there is evil afoot. "Come, curse this people for me."

Balaam gulped around the lump in his throat. He so badly wanted everything they had to offer! Maybe he could go to God again. Maybe the Lord would change his mind. Maybe it wasn't the people of Israel Balak was talking about. Swallowing, he answered the men, "Even if Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold," Balaam sent them a very pointed look after saying silver and gold, "I could not go beyond the command of the Lord my God to do more or less then what He says. And only what He says."

That they were annoyed would be an understatement. Especially the spokesman. Anger etched the hard lines of his face.

However, Balaam wasn't done. "Your party may also stay here. I will speak with the Lord concerning His will for the situation.

He would try again.

In that moment, without even realizing it, Balaam had named his price.

He would try again, and again, and again, until God said yes.

Based on Numbers 22:15-19

Now, as we sit in church, the speaker reading the letter comes to this part...the part about Balaam. He says that some of us are following in Balaam's footsteps. Suddenly, all those times flash in your mind. Those times when you prayed a certain way, to justify what you wanted from God. Those time when we've gone ahead and done what we wanted, when we wanted because we wanted to, not because God spoke it into our hearts. Those times when we have played someone, trying to get 'the silver and the gold' even though we couldn't give them what they wanted.

Those times when we were Balaam.

Balaam knew that he shouldn't go with Balak's men to Moab. He knew. God had told him not to go there. Balaam just kept asking, and God finally said he could go if they came to him, and to only say what He had spoken. Then Balaam got up and went with the men.

Balak tired to go Balaam to curse the Israelites, but every time Balaam opened his mouth, blessings just poured out of him. Balak kept insisting, "Maybe over here will work, or maybe if we stand on this cliff." Balaam keep playing Balak too, agreeing with him, going with him, even getting him to build altars for sacrifices for God.

It wasn't until we reach Balaam's third oracle in Numbers 24 that it really sinks into Balaam's head that God doesn't want to curse these people. They are His people and He wants to bless them. That's why blessings have spilled out of him. Numbers 24:1 even says, "...He did not go, as other times, to look for omens...."

How often are we like Balaam? How often is that our heart? We see everyone around us being free, reading what they want, watching what they want, doing any and everything that they want, seemingly without consequences. So sometimes, we do what we want. Sometimes when we pray, we have devious motives, not a pure heart. Sometimes we will do anything to "hear" a yes from God.

Today, God is calling His people to stop. Just stop.

There is a difference about praying for what you want, and manipulating your prayers to justify what you want. James 4:1-3 has some hard verses addressing this within the church. "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that you passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions."

It's a soul-sucking condition within the Body of Christ. This heart condition is fatal to your spiritual life. God never intended for prayer to be a Christmas list, or a Staples Easy button.

"And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, 'Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.'" Luke 22:41-42

This is Who we are supposed to mimic. This is what we are supposed to mimic. This should be our heart. Jesus could have prayed that prayer something like this, "Father, I know you don't want me to die. I've done nothing wrong. So I will use my authority, and get out of here! Let your judgement fall on these selfish people." That wasn't Jesus' heart. His heart was and is for us. His heart is to do the Father's work.

That needs to be our heart. Instead of the Balaam heart condition, we need to have the Jesus heart condition-it gives life!

V. Joy Palmer

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