March 16: “It’s What’s In Your Heart That Counts”

6 Minute Read

Today’s Bible Reading:

Numbers 24:1-25:18
Luke 2:1-35
Psalm 59:1-17
Proverbs 11:14

Today’s Bible Verse(s):

Numbers 24:12-13 (NLT): “Balaam told Balak, ‘Don’t you remember what I told your messengers? I said, “Even if Balak were to give me his palace filled with silver and gold, I would be powerless to do anything against the will of the LORD.” I told you that I could say only what the LORD says!’”

Reflections on Today’s Bible Verse(s):

If we are reading the story of Balaam and Balak for the first time, we would be tempted to admire Balaam. Even though he was apparently a “priest-for-hire,” his resolve was commendable.

Numbers 24:12-13 (NLT): “Balaam told Balak, ‘Don’t you remember what I told your messengers? I said, “Even if Balak were to give me his palace filled with silver and gold, I would be powerless to do anything against the will of the LORD.” I told you that I could say only what the LORD says!’”

Reading the entirety of Numbers 24 makes us want to have the resolve of Balaam. He had determined to be fully obedient to God and wouldn’t say anything without the Lord’s promptings.

Yet, when the next chapter begins, we read the following…

Numbers 25:1-3 (NLT): “While the Israelites were camped at Acacia Grove, some of the men defiled themselves by having sexual relations with local Moabite women. These women invited them to attend sacrifices to their gods, so the Israelites feasted with them and worshiped the gods of Moab. In this way, Israel joined in the worship of Baal of Peor, causing the LORD’s anger to blaze against his people.” 

We are tempted to ask, “What happened?! How could a pagan priest-for-hire exemplify such noble values while the people of Israel could sin so horribly?”

To get the answer to these questions, we need to skip to the New Testament. The answer is found in the very last book of the Bible. It shows up as Jesus, through the Apostle John, was addressing the church in Pergamum.

Revelation 2:14 (NLT): “But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin.”

In this verse, we learn that while Balaam committed himself to only saying that God led him to say, his heart was duplicitous. He was not ultimately loyal to the Lord or to His people. After proclaiming nothing but blessings upon Israel with his mouth, Balaam told Balak how to get the Israelites to destroy themselves.

There are so many lessons that we can draw from this story, but I will merely focus on one of them. Here it is: It is possible to give the appearance that we are loyal to the Lord with our words while not being loyal to Him in our hearts. We must resolve to cultivate a pure heart that genuinely loves the Lord. After all, the Lord spends less time listening to what we say because He gives His full attention to the heart from which our words come (1 Samuel 16:7).


Matt Ellis is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida (fbcpolkcity.com). His latest book is God’s Grace in the Real World. Connect with him on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn.

Photo by Jim Reardan on Unsplash

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I have an incredible wife that God gave to me on May 10, 1997. Since then, the Lord has blessed us with three wonderful boys. I am also the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Polk City, Florida.

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