Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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A Look at the Life of Balaam, Part 8

Leslie Basham: When God provides resources, it can be used for His glory, but it also comes with some dangers and temptation. Here's Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I want to make sure that my own heart doesn't get entwined in the money piece, the greed piece. It can be money; it can be salary; it can be honor; it can be reputation. And there's something about that that triggers pride that then causes God to resist you and becomes dangerous.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, October 14, 2015. We're in the final day of a very helpful series called "Blessings and Curses: A Look at the Life of Balaam." Here's Nancy.

Nancy: I had a flight delay in O'Hare earlier this week and was sitting, working on my laptop at a station where you can plug in. There was an empty space next to me, and a gentleman came over and plugged his computer in. He needed some help with his laptop which I was useless. He wanted to know how to find his password. I wasn't much help on that.

But we got into a conversation. He's an older man and had a lot of opinions about what's going on in the world today and was quite outspoken about many things. We ended up having a fascinating conversation and a good opportunity to point this man to Jesus.

But he said, "You know, there's a lot of people leaving the church today." And the reason he felt, he said, is, "Because all the churches and religious leaders care about is getting the people's money." That was his perspective. Now, here's a religious man. He's not an atheist. He's a devout religious man. But his perspective is that people are leaving the church in droves today because all the church cares about is getting people's money.

Well, sadly, sometimes that is true. And we see that in the story of Balaam that we've been looking at over this last week-and-a-half. First Corinthians 10 tells us, speaking about Old Testament passages and accounts that these things took place as examples for us.

We're supposed to learn something from these characters, these people, these stories. They're not just stories to entertain us. They're not just stories to inspire us. They're supposed to change our lives.

Now, I don't know when is the last time you heard a series on the life of Balaam. I never have until very recently, and I'm thankful for Ligon Duncan and his wonderful series on the book of Numbers that has been helpful to me as have some others. But Balaam's a not much talked about character.

And I think it's been really helpful for us, it has been for me, to dig into this story and to say, "What am I supposed to learn? What is the church of Jesus Christ supposed to learn from the example of this man?" These things took place as examples for us as new covenant believers.

As we get to the New Testament, we have multiple references to Balaam, particularly in the books of 2 Peter and Jude. These books are very similar. They're both short epistles that have a lot of warnings about false teachers, false prophets.

Here's how 2 Peter 2 describes those false teachers—and these are found within the church in many cases. They don't just prey on the church from the outside. But they spring up, they grow up within the church. People first think they're real, think that they're authentic, think that they're good, think that we should be listening to them. But then they have the marks, the trademarks, the characteristics of a false teacher.

And 2 Peter 2 describes them. It says in verse 14 "They have eyes full of adultery, [they're] insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed." Underline that word if you're following along there. Trained in greed.

Verse 15: "Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray." So, they might have been in the right way at one point. But because of the deep greed in their hearts they are enticed to go out of the right way and then they entice other unsteady or unstable souls.

"They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing." Or as other translations say, "He loved the wages of unrighteousness." He was willing to do unrighteous things, to give unrighteous teaching because he loved the reward that he got from it, the honor, the money, the payback.

But verse 16: He "was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet's madness."

And then you see something similar in Jude, verse 11. It says, "Woe to them! [these false teachers; these false prophets] For they walked in the way of Cain [who killed his brother Abel] and [they] abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error." In 2 Peter it was called the "way of Balaam." Now it's called the "error of Balaam." "And [they] perished in Korah's rebellion." I won't go into all that about Korah.

But here we see the "way of Balaam" and the "error of Balaam" in these similar passages. I think that these refer to the same thing either the "way of Balaam" or "Balaam's error." I think it refers to one who claims to be a servant of God but who is motivated by greed, by love of money, by desire for honor and personal financial gain.

And this person, this person who claims to be a legitimate servant of God, is willing to compromise the truth and compromise holiness, righteousness in order to acquire personal gain. Their motive is for self; it's not to give, to feed the flock. The Old Testament says it this way. "They feed themselves." They're shepherds who feed themselves and don't feed the sheep. They're saying, "What's in it for me?"

And we see this hinted at in the book of Numbers that we've been studying, but we see it clearly stated here in 2 Peter and Jude that this was Balaam's motivation.

And we have warnings throughout the New Testament. Balaam is set up as an Old Testament example. But then the New Testament warns us about the importance of spiritual leaders in the church of Jesus Christ not being motivated by greed or financial gain.

In fact, I think I could say that every place where you have qualifications for spiritual leadership in the church—for elders, for deacons, for overseers—one of the things that is mentioned is that they should not be greedy for gain.

Listen to a few of those verses. 1 Timothy 3, verse 2 and following: "An overseer [or a bishop in the church] must be above reproach . . . not a lover of money . . . Deacons likewise must be dignified . . . not greedy for dishonest gain." It comes back to money.

Titus 1:7: "For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain." That love of money is a root of all kinds of evil but it's particularly insidious and dangerous when it's in the hearts of those who lead the flock of God.

First Peter 1:1: "I exhort the elders among you . . . shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly . . . not for shameful gain, but eagerly" (vv. 1–2). You do it because you love the Lord and you love these people. You want to serve the Lord, and you want to serve these people. You're not doing it for gain.

Dr. D.A. Carson says in one of his devotional commentaries: "Never stoop to become a peddler of the Word of God."

Now, the apostle Paul was just the opposite of this. He said to certain churches, "We won't even let you take an offering for us even though we need it and God's people should be supplied—God's workers should be supplied by the people they serve." There's' nothing wrong with a minster saying, "Here are the needs we have financially" and giving the people an opportunity to partner with them in that need. But Paul said, "There are some places where we wouldn't let people give us an offering because we didn't want them to question our motives."

He said, "We will most gladly spend and be spent for you. If we get nothing out of it but being reviled and reproached and blamed and maligned and shipwrecked and cast out and stoned and left for dead—if that's all we get out of this, we will keep laying down our lives for you."

So Paul never did what he did for the love of money. He did it for the love of God, for the love of the people that he was called to serve, for the love of the gospel. There's such a consistent warning throughout Scripture about the leaders of the church of God not being motivated by a love of money.

This is one of the reasons that in Revive Our Hearts I have made a decision years ago with the approval and the agreement of our board that I do not take any royalties or any honorarium for speaking—royalties from my books or honorarium for speaking for myself. God has arranged for my needs to be provided and through the ministry. But it all goes back into the ministry—all those royalties, all those honorariums.

Now, I don't think that if someone does take their royalties that that's sinful or wrong. But in my own heart, I'm really happy to be able to write books and do this ministry without saying, "If I said it a little differently or if I taught a little different subject maybe I could gain more, I could get more financial benefit." I don't want to have that temptation. I'm really happy for it to be plowed back into the ministry. And God has met my needs.

But for me it's been a protection. And again, I'm not saying that somebody who does it differently that's a wrong thing for them to do or that they love money because they take their book royalties. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying for me, it has been a help and a protection.

If somebody hands me an envelope with money in it when we're at a conference or out on the road, I don't even want to touch it. I want to have them give it to the person who's responsible for handling those things. I'm not afraid I'm going to steal it. I don't think you need to worry about that. But I want to just keep my hands off of the money stuff.

Now, I'm very happy to say to people, "I encourage you to support this ministry and ones like it." Because biblically we are supposed to do that. So I have no problem saying that. But I want to make sure that my own heart doesn't get entwined in the money piece, the greed piece. It can be money; it can be salary; it can be honor; it can be reputation. And there's something about that that triggers pride that then causes God to resist you and becomes dangerous.

Well, the way or the error of Balaam is found in the chapters we've looked at over the last week and a half. Numbers 22, 23, and 24. We see the error, the way of Balaam. He was a hireling. He was not a true prophet. He served for monetary gain versus for the calling of God for his life. He didn't care about truth. What he cared about was padding his own pocket book.

He was hired to come and pronounce a curse on God's people, which thankfully, God kept him from doing because God is sovereign over all evil people. And God would only let him pronounce blessing. But if Balaam had done what he wanted to do, he would have pronounced cursing on the people of God because that's what he was getting paid to do. It doesn't mean God didn't use him. But it means he was a tragic figure—one whose way and error we should avoid.

Now, we come to Revelation 2 which is the third reference to Balaam in the New Testament. And this is where we read about the teaching or the doctrine of Balaam. We've seen his way, his error is that he served for financial gain. He was motivated by greed and that is what motivated him to do what he did. Now we see the teaching or the doctrine of Balaam which is different than his error or his way.

Revelation 2, Jesus says to church in Pergamum, "I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching [or the doctrine] of Balaam" (v. 14). So, what is this teaching that bothered Jesus so much when He saw it in this New Testament church?

Well, Jesus, I believe, is referring to an account that is found in Numbers 25. It follows the three chapters we've been looking at over the past week-and-a-half—chapters 22–24. So let me invite you to turn with me to chapter 25 of the book of Numbers. And you gotta kind of hang in here because I'm having to piece several passages together that are kind of like a puzzle that give you the whole picture. So I'm going to throw out a lot of references. If you don't get it all, go to Look at the website, and it will help you have all those references in your mind.

But let's start in Numbers 25, verse 1: "While Israel lived in Shittim . . ." Okay, this is after Balaam has gone back to his home. Balak has said, "Out with you, enough with you. I'm done with you. You're not getting your money. Leave. You didn't do what I asked you to do. You're out of here."

Now, chapter 25:1: "While Israel lived in Shittim . . . the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods [that is, the daughters of Moab invited the Israelites to the sacrifices of their pagan gods], and the [Israelites] ate and bowed down to [the Moabite] gods" (vv. 1–2).

The Israelites did the unthinkable. They committed fornication with the women of Moab. They ate meat that had been sacrificed to idols. They worshiped the false gods of the Moabites. So you have to ask what in the world possessed them to leave Jehovah, the true and living God who had redeemed their fathers from Egypt. What induced them to worship and serve false gods and to adopt the immoral lifestyle of the Moabites?

Well, the answer I believe is found in Numbers 31. You don't need to turn there but just listen and try and piece all this together. Numbers 31:16 says, "These women [the Moabite women] caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the incident of Peor."

Now, let me go back to Revelation 2. I read part of the verse. I didn't finish it. "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" (v. 14).

The mastermind of this scheme that proved to be so destructive to Israel was none other than Balaam. No matter how hard they tried, Balak and Balaam, we've seen this over the last week or so, they could not weaken, defeat, or destroy Israel by cursing them. So they set out to do it more subtly, through compromise, assimilation, accommodation, tolerance of evil. And somehow the Israelites had to become convinced that it was okay to do it.

They didn't just jump up from being holy people who loved God and served Him with pure hearts and all of a sudden, "Oh, we're going jump in bed with these Moabite women. We're going to worship these false gods." No. Evil doesn't happen just in a moment like that. It's a process of a slippery slide, of accommodation and assimilation into the people of this world.

So, after multiple failed attempts to destroy Israel by cursing them, Balaam came back and said to Balak, "I've got an idea. It will cause the Israelites to be spiritually weakened. And it will result in their undoing at their own hands. It will provoke their God. It will cause Him to defeat them without their enemies having to take up any arms against them."

So, what was Balaam's idea? Well, Revelation 2 tells us he advised Balak, the King of the Moabites, to seduce God's people by offering them prostitutes and food that had been offered to idols, which they were strictly forbidden to partake in. He couldn't succeed in cursing Israel, but he was able to lead them astray with his counsel that he gave to Balaak who then seduced the Israelites and got them ultimately to curse and destroy themselves.

Back to Numbers 25: "So Israel yoked himself [to get in the yoke with. Israel yoked himself. It's a very visual description here. Yoked himself] to Baal of Peor" (v. 3). Israel yoked himself to the Moabite's god.

Now, that's a big contrast to what we read two chapters earlier in Numbers 23:9 in one of Balaam's prophecies where he said, "Behold, a people dwelling alone, and not counting itself among the nations!"

You see, one of the strong points of Israel to that point had ben that they were separate, that they were pure, they were different, they were set apart, they were consecrated to God's purposes. But they gave up their consecration. They gave it away. They said, "That doesn't matter to us. We'll assimilate with these pagan people."

Now, it's not just that it was wrong for them to live near those people. But it was wrong for them to assimilate into their practices, into their immortality, into their idolatry. They were no longer set apart; they were no longer different. They basically said, "We'll be like all the other nations. We'll worship the way they do. We'll have sex the way they do. It's okay."

And that decision for Israel to yoke himself to Baal proved to be extremely costly. The consequences were tragic and painful. Beginning in verse 3: "And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel." Even as earlier, the anger of the Lord had been kindled against Balaam.

Yes, these were God's chosen people. But they could not sin against a holy God with impunity. The immorality, the idolatry of God's people had to be judged. And this was so that the lineage leading to the Messiah, the Savior of the world could be preserved and kept free from contamination. This was the line through whom God was going to send the Savior of the world. That's why they had to be different.

Verse 4: Therefore we see God dealing with this in a very strong way. "The LORD said to Moses, 'Take all the chiefs of the people and hang them in the sun before the LORD, that the fierce anger of the LORD may turn away from Israel.' And Moses said to the judges of Israel, 'Each of you kill those of his men who have yoked themselves to Baal of Peor.'" This is a capital offense in God's eyes in that moment, for those people.

Then what happened next represents flagrant disregard for God and His holiness. It's almost unbelievable. It takes your breath away. So in the midst of this idolatry, this immorality, you get the sense that sin has just become rampant among the people of God. All the walls are down. The barriers are down. They've assimilated into these pagan people. But God is taking this seriously. He's disciplining His people, and He's chastening. And He's saying, "There has to be punishment for this."

And in the midst of that, verse 6: "Behold, one of the people of Israel came and brought a Midianite woman to his family, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the whole congregation of the people of Israel, while they were weeping in the entrance of the tent of meeting."

The holiest place. There's repentance; there's weeping; there's grieving; there's mourning going on. There's judgment going on. There's punishment. There's discipline. And here comes a man flaunting immorality. Did he think he could get away with it? Did he think that God would turn a blind eye? God is holy.

So what about the flagrant sin in the church today? What about the statistics in relation to Christian, so-called "Christian" in the church—couples sleeping together, not married. It's like main stream. It's become normalized. And where is the grief? Where is the sense that this is a tragedy? Listen, I expect that to be the way of the world. But when this is in the church, in the Tent of Meeting, among the holy, set-apart people of God, this is tragic. It should break our hearts.

God intends to bless His people, and He will move heaven and earth to protect them, and to deal with those who curse them. He's already demonstrated that in this passage. But He will not be trifled with. We cannot shake our fist in the face of a holy God and get away with it. And in that moment of history, extreme measures were required to deal with this offense.

Verse 7: "When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw it [this flagrant immorality, flaunting immorality], he rose and left the congregation and took a spear in his hand and went after the man of Israel into the chamber and pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman through her belly."

Now, this is not a passage you'll hear preached very often. I'm not going to spend a lot of time on it, but I just want you to get this sense that holiness matters to God for the people of God.

"Then the plague on the people of Israel was stopped. Nevertheless, those who died by the plague were twenty-four thousand [people]" (v. 7).

So, here after forty years of wandering in the wilderness, on the border of the Promised Land, just about to enter, after years of waiting and wandering and longing, twenty-four thousand people get their lives snuffed out in a plague. And actually, in a sense, I believe that was a mercy because as a result, countless more lives were spared. But all of this is a result of being deceived by the ungodly counsel of the same man who had tried unsuccessfully to curse the people of God.

Jesus said that this same teaching, this same doctrine that had such disastrous results among the Israelites in the wilderness was also prevalent in the church of Pergamum in the New Testament, and he called them to repent.

So, I ask, could that same teaching be present in the church today? And the answer is yes! It is present. It is widely taught and practiced and it is wildly popular. Here's how the thinking goes then and now:

"You are God's covenant people, right? Right. He has chosen you; He loves you; He will never forsake you. Right? Right. Nothing can change that. Right? Right. Nothing can take that privileged position from you. You are eternally secure. Right? Right. Therefore, you can live your life any way you want. You can give in to the lusts of your flesh. You can disregard His commands. You can forget about holiness."

Now, nobody says it quite that way, but that's how it turns out. It doesn't make a difference at the end of the day. "Regardless of how you live, you'll still get to heaven. You'll still get to the Promised Land. You'll still have the rewards and the blessings promised to believers. All that matters is that you belong to Him. 'I'm a Christian.'"

I don't know how many moms have said to me over the years, "My son or daughter is a Christian, but they are living in this lifestyle or that lifestyle that is flagrantly opposed to the Word of God."

And I say, "Don't assume that they're a Christian. They may have made a profession of faith, they may have prayed a prayer, they may have done this or that, but don't assume that they are a child of God. And if they are, there will be consequences to be paid."

Today, that philosophy, that teaching, that doctrine of Balaam promotes compromise and accommodation. Tolerate that which is evil that which God hates in the church. We see in the church worldliness, carnality accepted and promoted and platformed with Christian musicians, Christian artists, Christian authors, Christian preachers tolerating sin and fleshly behavior and getting paid lots of money to promote it, to live that lifestyle.

Let me just say this. I know we're out of time here. But for the plague to be stopped in that day, God required death, the purging of iniquity from the assembly of God's people. Now, in the New Testament, God requires church discipline. That requires putting unrepentant, professing believers who persist in their disobedience, putting them out of the fellowship. God says, "Purge the iniquity from among you."

We don't do much of that today. It has to be done carefully. It has to be done biblically. We're not the ones to do it. God gives the leadership of the church that responsibility.

Let me just point out one other thing. This whole incident with the plague, twenty-four thousand had died, the death with the spear of that man and that Midianite woman, it all points, I think ,to the death of Christ in the sinner's place taking the curse that we deserve for our sin. He took our curse. He took our plague. He took our death. And as a result, we have the death of death. And we are delivered from the curse because Christ was made a curse for us.

Leslie: That's Nancy Leigh DeMoss wrapping up a series called "Blessings and Curses: A Look at the Life of Balaam." Nancy will be right back.

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Well, what are you doing this weekend? Nancy has a great idea for you, and she's here to tell you about it.

Nancy: Here at Revive Our Hearts, our mission is to believe God to bring about transformation in the church and then to bring about spiritual awakening in the world at large. When I was a young girl, reading accounts of spiritual awakenings and revivals in the past stirred my heart to ask the Lord, "Do it again."

And I'm excited that there is a new generation of story-tellers who have that same heart. Jon Erwin is a film director who has a passion to share stories of how God has drawn people to Himself in times of spiritual awakening. And his new movie, Woodlawn, tells one of those amazing stories.

Jon sat down with our team not long ago to tell how his heart was stirred as a young boy when he heard about a move of God in the early 1970s.

Leslie: Yes, Nancy. Woodlawn tells the story of a high school football team at a time of racial tension in the South. And get this. The whole team came to know Jesus when they heard the gospel from Hank Erwin. He's played in the movie by Sean Astin. And Jon Erwin grew up hearing this story.

Jon Erwin: I heard it as a child—this bedtime story. Sean Astin's character in the movie is my actual father, Hank Erwin. He was chaplain of Woodlawn High School. We just heard the story as kids and were blown away by it. But we always wanted to make it into a movie. It's just cool to see a way that I can really connect with my dad and again hope that what happened in his generation can happen in mine—a revival—an awakening. We need it.

The story is so incredible you couldn't write it. When I started studying the Jesus Movement and doing my research for Woodlawn, I'd say, "How could this happen? Is this possible? How could a whole team give their lives to Christ in one night and decide to love each other? How could that save their high school, spread to their rival school? The same thing happens at their rival school and leads to biggest game ever in Alabama at this school level. How is this possible?"

I learned not only did it happen, it was happening all over the country. And things that my generation or anyone younger than me has never experienced—just a significant move of God in America. It became known as The Jesus Movement. It's the last kind of great move of God in our country. And the front cover of TIME magazine in 1971 was labeled "The Jesus Revolution." When I read it, I just began to crave it for myself. Maybe something like this could happen in our time and in our generation.

The Father of Revival, Jonathan Edwards, in his old English way basically said, "Stories of revival from one place spark revivals in another." And so maybe if we tell stories of what happened before, it can happen again. That's the goal. Maybe if we tell those stories on a grand scale, something really special could happen.

Leslie: Could God bring about that kind of spiritual awakening in our day? We're praying that He does. We hope this movie inspires others to pray for that as well.

Jon: I think every revival starts in prayer. There's an incredible scene in Woodlawn on the impact of prayer. I would say it begins in a desperate prayer. It's not normal prayer. It's extraordinary prayer. It's more than we would normally pray. I think it's a desperate prayer, and I feel that desperation rising.

And it's so cool with Woodlawn. My good friends, the Kendrick's, kind of got me into Christian film. They're doing a film called War Room on prayer, and we're doing a film two months later on revival. We didn't plan that. Only God could have planned that.

One of the amazing things is five other pastors and I have been praying. When Woodlawn will come out, we will have been praying a year together weekly for revival in America. So the whole project is really bathed in prayer. We've been praying for a generation to come back to Christ. I just have a fundamental belief that a generation really wants Christ. They just don't know it yet.

Nancy: This new movie Woodlawn shows what happens when God draws people to Himself, and then what happens when those revived hearts start living with Christ at the center of their lives. That can have a huge effect on the world around us.


Yes he does!! #amen #woodlawn #woodlawnmovie 🙏🏻

A photo posted by Woodlawn Movie (@woodlawnmovie) on

I think this movie will stir your heart to ask the Lord to bring about a fresh spiritual awakening in our day. Woodlawn opens this Friday. I hope that you'll plan to see this movie and that you'll take others with you who might be inspired by this account of how God can really move in and change the course of history. You can find a link with more information at

Leslie: It's very common for a family to start doing a million things and forget why they're doing them. Tomorrow Melissa Kruger and Erin Davis will show you why you need to pause and be reminded why your family exists. Hear that conversation next time on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.