#5 (The “Remember” Series)
“REMEMBER BALAK AND BALAAM!”
TEXT: Micah 6:1-8; 2:11; 3:11
INTRO: How much of our walk with God is spent trying to bribe God? Humans have this funny way of dealing with doing wrong; we will try and do some other good thing to soothe our conscience and atone for our sins when we have done something wrong. We attempt to buy God’s favor when we feel desperate, hoping to make up for some sin we don’t really want to deal with or acknowledge, etc.
ILLUS: LIKE THE MAN IN GASTONIA, N.C. WHO BROKE INTO AN APARTHENT TO ROB IT – HOPING TO SOOTHE HIS CONSCIENCE AND APPEAR LIKE HE WASN’T SO BAD AFTER ALL HE PROCEEDED TO WASH ALL THE DISHES LEFT IN THE SINK, HE THEN MOPPED THE KITCHEN FLOOR, SCRUBBED THE BATHROOM NEXT – AND THEN EVEN REARRANGED THE FURNITURE FOR A MORE PLEASANT LOOK; THEN HE STOLE THE STEREO AND EVERYTHING ELSE OF VALUE IN THE HOME! HIS GOOD DEED HELPED HIM FEEL HE COULD OVERLOOK HIS SINS! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
We grew up bribing our parents when we wanted something or to atone for something we had done wrong, bribing teachers when we needed something, and sometimes we attempted to bribe God – but God cannot be bribed and we need to learn that His love is given freely!
We would all be better off if we learned to have an honest relationship with God, when we sin we simply confess it, when God asks of us something to simply do it because it is right and it honors God, and not to try and move God to do some favor for us through bribery!
PROP. SENT: Balak and Balaam’s error was that they thought God’s blessings and curses could be bought for a price! The tragedy in Micah’s day was that Israel was attempting to do the same thing with God that Balak and Balaam had tried many years earlier, a tactic that proved to be a horrible failure and had thus kept Israel from a revival!
I. THE “HEARTBREAK” OF THE ISSUES! 6:1-5; 2:11; 3:11
A. Prophets of Profit! 6:1-3; 2:11; 3:11
1. Israel (here mostly Judah) had been complaining about the lack of God’s blessings on them, they felt God had been unkind to them and had put too much pressure on them.
a. They ignored their own attitudes of
selfishness and materialism which was rampant at this time in
b. They for the most part had been
pretty faithful to attend the
c. The rich were getting richer; the poor were preyed upon by the rich in the country.
2. They felt that as long as they gave God their tithes and attended faithfully the Temple and worked hard that it didn’t matter how they treated one another!
a. Thus as God began to withhold covenant blessings from them they couldn’t understand the reasons God had for doing this to them!
b. Ceremony had replaced Character!
3. The tragic element in this story is that the example of this was set by the PRIESTS themselves!!!
a. 2:11 and aptly testify to this reality!!
b. The priests were preaching all the things the people wanted to hear in order to make them feel good so they would continue to give good offerings, this gave the priests a healthy salary and made them popular!
c. These priests gave the people a false sense of security, they didn’t preach sin or repentance, just blessing!
d. How many pulpits today ignore preaching on repentance and the reality of sin, the reality of hell is ignored in sermons so people won’t FEEL bad!!
4. Judah was thereby distracted from the real issues of sin in their life individually and corporately! Two things can distract us from the real issues in our life:
ILLUS: IN THE MOVIE “ROBIN HOOD” THIS VERY PRINCIPLE WAS DEMONSTRATED WHEN ROBIN HOOD CANE TO A YOUNG MAN WHO WAS PRACTICING HIS ARCHERY ABILITY. ROBIN HOOD ASKED THE MAN, “CAN YOU SHOOT AMID DISTRACTIONS?” THE YOUNG MAN SAID YES AND RAISED HIS BOW TO SHOOT WHEN JUST AS HE WAS ABOUT TO RELEASE HIS ARROW ROBIN HOOD TOOK A FEATHER AND POKED THE MAN’S EAR QUITE HARD! THE BOY’S SHOT WENT HIGH BY SEVERAL FEET OVER THE TARGET AS HE FLINCHED WITH PAIN. AFTER THE LAUGHING DIED DOWN, MAID MARIAN STANDING BY THE BOY ASKED ROBIN HOOD IF HE COULD DO THE SANE TEST, AND OF COURSE HE CONFIDENTLY STATED “YES!” TAKING AN ARROW AND CAREFULLY AIMING IT ROBIN HOOD WAS ABOUT TO RELEASE THE ARROW WHEN MAID MARIAN FLIRTATIOUSLY BLEW INTO HIS FACE. THE ARROW MISSED THE TARGET, GLACED OFF THE TREE BEHIND IT AND BARELY MISSED A BYSTANDER! PAIN AND PLEASURE CAN BOTH BE A DISTRACTION, SOMETIMES PLEASURE CAN BE THE WORSE ONE! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
5. Judah was complaining about God giving them hardship while they continued to practice doing most of the right things – even if it was for mostly the wrong reasons!
a. Their security was being threatened by an enemy nation!
prosperity was drying up though their religious life was vibrant, however
the righteousness that God desired was absent – similar to what is
B. Principle of Pardon 6:4-5
1. As though in a courtroom, God presents his case against His people.
a. To try and show Judah that God wanted CHARACTER and not just CASH from the people He reminds them of two examples of His deliverance for them from their past – both times God delivered Israel not because of their great sacrifices financially but because of their trust in Him!
(1. Crossing the
(2. Crossing the Jordon river when Balak and Balaam tried to force God to curse them through a large payment of cash, and it failed! 6:5
b. In both these cases God delivered Israel freely because they were living in obedience to the Lord and trusting in God, it wasn’t the rituals that won God’s favor, it was righteousness!
2. Now they were hoping for God’s favor based on ritually following certain of God’s laws like temple attendance and giving, but with no heart to care about people or to minister to the poor! They had jumped on the wrong horse in trying to win God’s favor!
ILLUS: LIKE THE RIVARLY YEARS AGO BETWEEN TWO MEN IN KENTUCKY WHO RACED HORSES. THEY TRIED EVERYTHING TO BEAT EACH OTHER WITH THEIR HORSES. ONE YEAR ONE OF THE MEN HIRED A PROFESSIONAL JOCKEY TO GIVE HIM THE EDGE SINCE THEIR HORSE WERE PRETTY EQUAL IN TIME ON THE TRACKS. SURE ENOUGH, BOTH HORSES WERE IN THE LEAD, BUT NECK AND NECK COMING UP TO THE FINISH LINE; THEN A TRAGEDY STRUCK, THE TWO HORSES COLLIDED WITH EACH OTHER AS THEY TRIED TO MAKE AN EDGE ON EACH OTHER. THEY BOTH WENT DOWN, WITH BOTH RIDERS. THE PROFESSIONAL JOCKEY HOWEVER DEMONSTRATED THE STRENGTH OF HIS TRADE HOWEVER WHEN HE PICKED HIMSELF UP AND QUICKLY REMOUNTED AND MADE IT ACROSS THE FINISH LINE WITH THE WIN! RETURNING TRIUMPHANTLY TO THE STALL WHERE THE OWNER WAS WAITING HE WAS CONFUSED TO FIND THE OWNER WHO HAD HIRED HIM MADDER THAN A WET HEN!! THE JOCKEY ASKED, “WHAT’S THE MATTER? WHY ARE YOU SO MAD, I WON DIDN’T I?” THE KENTUCKY MAN RESPONDED, “YEA, YOU WON ALL RIGHT, BUT YOU CROSSED THE FINISH LINE ON THE WRONG HORSE! WHEN YOU GOT BACK UP YOU JUMPED ON MY ENEMIES’ HORSE INSTEAD OF MINE!” THE WIN MEANT NOTHING SINCE IT WAS THE WRONG HORSE! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
3. Judah was betting on the wrong horse, they thought they could appease God with some perfunctory obedience to outward actions and not have to deal with the real issues of the heart!
a. While they were mad at God for the loss of their material blessings God was heartbroken over their attempts at tokenism!
b. God saved them from Pharaoh and Balak freely because they loved the Lord back then, not because of what they did for God!
c. If they had found God’s grace because their heart was in the right place back then, why did they think they could now buy God’s love and favor?
4. This is the heartbreak of many Christians today, they go through the motions of spirituality without having the character of spirituality!
a. When they need God’s favor they go through a flurry of doing “good deeds” until things are over or they get want they wanted, then they slip back into avoiding God!
b. God cannot be bribed or manipulated, He responds to love and obedience that springs from love, not from attempts at manipulating Him!
II. THE “HEART” OF THE ISSUE! 6:6-8
A. Portrait of a Phony! 6:6-7
1. Their response to Micah’s preaching this message to them about pleasing God was to go overboard on giving as if to bribe God even more!
a. This only proved that they still didn’t get the real message!
b. Notice their reaction – they give thousands of sacrifices, ten thousand rivers of oil, and unbelievably they even consider offering up to God their own children as sacrifices to make their bribe for prosperity that desperate! To even consider giving their own children in sacrifice to try and move God to bless them again demonstrates just how far their hearts had turned toward prosperity over principle. Their outward focus was on “getting back their blessings” instead of getting back true righteousness!
c. Prosperity or gold was their goal, not God! Is this what drives Americans “back to God” today?
2. God was viewed as just another means of getting more! What ever happened to the “Sin issue?”
3. They had reasoned that perhaps a sacrifice of one of the own children might atone for the sins of their own body since the baby came from their own body or it would at least show God how serious they were about making sacrifices!
a. How many Americans sacrifice their children to the God of money – to get more and more – so busy making money they ignore them while they grow up!
b. How many Americans think that if they just gave their kids everything then it will make up for all the sins they commit in ignoring their family life!?
4. This reaction by them to go overboard on giving to atone for the real problem of their sinful heart condition reflects the age in which we live today! Some things never change!
a. Their idea to the challenge to repent: “Let’s do something quick and dramatic and get this over with and get back our prosperity.”
b. Instead of changing their hearts they attempt to just appease God with a quick, dramatic offering in the hopes that an easy quick fix will turn things around!
c. God wasn’t looking for this kind of response to His challenge, He wasn’t after more money from them; He wanted godly character not great cash!
5. They were used to getting their way by buying people off, by waving their gifts around and taking advantage of the poor!
a. Their concern was PROSPERITY, not PEOPLE!
b. How does
c. How do you stand up to it?
6. Judah had more excuses for not really changing their hearts, the only person in their eyes responsible for their loss of blessings was God – not them! It certainly wasn’t their fault, at least in their eyes! How like today this is!
ILLUS: LIKE MICHAEL TINDALL OF BOSTON YEARS AGO WHO WAS SET FREE BY A JUDGE FOR FLYING ILLEGAL DRUGS INTO THE UNITED STATES. TINDALL’S ATTORNEY HAD ARGUED SUCCESSFULLY THAT TINDALL WAS A VICTIM OF A SYNDROME CALLED, “ACTION ADDICT SYNDROME” ... A SO-CALLED EMOTIONAL DISORDER THAT MAKES A PERSON CRAVE DANGEROUS AND THRILLING SITUATIONS! THEY ARGUED THAT TINDALL WASN’T A DRUG DEALER, JUST A THRILL SEEKER AND THAT HE COULDN’T HELP HIMSELF! -OR- LIKE THE MAN IN OREGON WHO TRIED TO KILL HIS EX-WIFE, HE TOO WENT FREE HAVING SUCCESSFULLY ARGUED THAT HE COULDN’T HELP HIMSELF BECAUSE HE SUFFERED FROM “DEPRESSION-SUICIDE SYNDROME” ... A DISORDER WHOSE VICTIMS DELIBERATELY COMMIT POORLY PLANNED CRIMES TO THEY CAN HOPEFULLY GET CAUGHT. HE WASN’T TRYING TO REALLY KILL HIS WIFE; HE WAS HOPING THAT THE POLICE WOULD REALLY KILL HIM! -OR- DAN WHITE WHO KILLED THE MAYOR YEARS AGO OF SAN FRANCISCO ... HE GOT OFF A MUCH LESSER CHARGE BY CLAIMING THAT HE COULDN’T HELP HIMSELF FOR KILLING THE MAYOR BECAUSE OF HIS JUNK FOOD OBSESSION! WE ARE LIVING IN THE ERA OF “IT’S NOT MY FAULT OR RESPONSIBILITY” ... AND SO WE LOOK FOR QUICK FIXES! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
7. Judah wanted a quick-fix, not a change of heart! They just wanted God’s blessings back, the easiest and quickest way possible!
B. People of Promise! 6:8
1. God now clarifies what it is He is looking for if they really want His blessings to return!
a. It is not more “stuff’ or more “activity” in the temple.
b. It was JUSTICE, MERCY, HUMILITY, AND LOVE; for God and fellow man!
c. This is what God has always wanted from His people – character, not just CASH!
2. Time and time again they only turned to God when things were bad, only when they found themselves in a crisis, God wanted their love and trust in the good times too, not just to be used by them!
ILLUS: LIKE A WELL TO DO LAWYER AND HIS WIFE WHO HAD HIRED THIS MAID. THEY FELT SORRY FOR AND SO HAD HER BECOME A LIVE-IN MAID TO GIVE HER A BETTER LIFE. SHE WAS A PRETTY GOOD COOK AND KEPT THE HOUSE WELL. THINGS WENT WELL FOR SOME TIME AND THEN ONE DAY SHE CAME TO THEM AND SAID, “I HAVE TO QUIT, I’M PREGNANT!” THE MAN AND HIS WIFE DISCUSSED TOGETHER HOW THEY COULD HELP HER AND FINALLY AGREED. THEY CAME TO HER AND SAID, “WE WILL ADOPT YOUR BABY AND YOU CAN CONTINUE TO WORK AND LIVE HERE!” SHE WAS HAPPY AND IT WAS DONE. LATER THE SAME THING HAPPENED, SHE CAME AND ANNOUNCED SHE WOULD HAVE TO QUIT, SHE WAS PREGNANT AGAIN. AGAIN THE COUPLE AGREED TO KEEP THE BABY AND ADOPT IT FOR HER IF SHE STAYED ON. LATER THE SAME THING HAPPENED A THIRD TIME, AND AGAIN THEY ADOPTED THIS BABY. ONLY ABOUT A MONTH AFTER ADOPTING THE THIRD BABY HOWEVER THE MAID ANNOUNCED SHE WAS QUITTING! THE COUPLE’S RESPONSE WAS LOGICAL BUT SURPRISED, THEY SAID, “SURELY YOU’RE NOT PREGNANT AGAIN SO QUICKLY?!” THE MAID RESPONDED, “NO, I’M QUITTING BECAUSE THERE ARE JUST TOO MANY KIDS IN THIS HOUSE TO PICK UP AFTER, I HAVE TO THINK OF MY NEEDS!” HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE DONE THIS WITH GOD? GOD HAS HELPED THEM OVER AND OVER AGAIN AND THEN THEY TURN THEIR BACK ON GOD THE MOMENT THINGS GET TOUGH, TO HELP THEMSELVES! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
3. God is looking for the heart and not just our gifts.
a. You can be a gifted person and still not be usable in God’s kingdom, it matters where your heart is and your character!
b. It is not CHARISMATA (gifts) that God looks for in using us as much as it is CHARACTER!
4. God is moved by one thing, a real heart of righteousness. The heart that seeks to love God and man simply because they have learned to be moved by God’s love for them!
5. Don’t just seek to have God restore your fortunes when they are lost, have the wisdom to seek God to have Him restore your faith, He then will take care of everything else!
CONCLUSION: What moves God’s heart? Can God be bought or fooled by lavish displays of sacrifices without a real change of heart? God’s grace flows freely because of who we are, not just on what we do! You can do right things for the wrong reasons. Those who do this do not experience God’s blessings anymore than those who do wrong things. God looks for righteous character more than lavish sacrifices!