|Volume 21 Number 11 November 2019||
The children of Israel were on their way from Egypt to Canaan, but they had some hurdles to overcome along the way. They had problems with faith, food and also with foreign enemies. One of the problems that Israel faced in the wilderness was a king named Balak, who hired a prophet named Balaam to curse them. God forbid Balaam from cursing the people of Israel. He was only allowed to bless them (Numbers 23:1-12, 25-26). Once Balaam realized he could not curse the children of Israel with his speech, he attempted to seduce them to sin with the Moabite women (Numbers 25:1). The Israelites gave in to Balaam’s temptation and joined themselves to idols and displeased the Lord (Numbers 25:2-3). God had Moses kill all of those who engaged in this idolatrous behavior in order to remove the wickedness from their midst (Numbers 25:4-5; cf. Exodus 20:2-6).
After God had shown His hatred for the fornication of Israel mixed with idolatry, an Israelite man, Zimri (Numbers 25:14), marched into the camp one day with a Midianite woman, Cozbi (Numbers 25:15). Not only did the Israelite come in with the forbidden woman, but he also did it in the sight of all of the people, and no one did anything about it (Numbers 25:6). It was at this time that Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, rose up with a javelin and killed them both (Numbers 25:7-8). God blessed Phinehas and turned away from His anger toward Israel (Numbers 25:10-15). While this Old Testament account of righteous indignation and punishment may be hard for many to accept, it teaches profound truths we need to remember and practice. Phinehas sets an example that must be reproduced today as we desperately need a new generation of Phinehases.
Courage Not to Follow the Crowd
As the Israelite Zimri marched into the camp with the Midianite woman, some Israelites might have whispered about how wrong it was. Perhaps some Israelites reasoned, “It was not lawful for him to have her,” but no one did anything about it (cf. Mark 6:18). Sometimes we may see things that we know are wrong, but we are afraid to speak up and do something because we are all alone. The majority is not always correct, and just because most people are silent does not mean we should be (Exodus 23:2). Most people are on the wide road that leads to destruction, and we should not expect them to speak up about unrighteousness (Matthew 7:13-14). When Phinehas saw wrong, he did not wait to get the approval of his contemporaries before he acted. Phinehas was convicted already because he knew that the fornication and idolatry of Zimri and Cozbi offended his God (Psalm 139:21-22).
We need a new generation of Phinehases who will not follow the blind culture in which we currently live, but instead will follow the New Testament of Jesus Christ (Matthew 15:14). It is possible to silently approve of the wrong of others. If we do, we will give an account (Romans 1:32). God is pleased when His people do not follow the crowd, but instead follow the way of the cross. Be like Phinehas and avoid the temptation to do what everyone else is doing.
Zealous for God
When God pronounced a blessing on Phinehas, He said that he was zealous or jealous for God, and this drove him to act (Numbers 25:11). Phinehas did not stand up and strike Zimri and Cozbi because he simply did not think they were a cute couple. There was something deeper and more important driving Phinehas’ behavior than whether or not he thought Zimri and Cozbi should be together. He was concerned with what God thought about it. God had already shown His disdain for these types of relationships. If Phinehas was going to have God’s approval, he needed to be against it too. God described his attitude as zealous. This Hebrew word in this context means to campaign for someone. Phinehas’ behavior was his effort to campaign for God as he was aligning himself with the God of Heaven (Exodus 32:26).
We need to be zealous for the Lord and to be “campaigning” for him in the same way that Phinehas did in the wilderness. When God calls homosexuality an abomination, we need to say the same thing without apology as we show the world around us that we are on the side of God and what He says about sexual immorality of any kind (Romans 1:26-27; Leviticus 18:22). We should be zealous for God as we speak of the pure worship of the New Testament that is free from the doctrines and deviations of men (Matthew 15:7-9). Being zealous for God is too many times defined as simply being excited about God and having a mind that is interested in the things of God. Biblically speaking, to be zealous for God is more than just what we feel but also how we behave. It should also be noted that our zeal should be accompanied with knowledge (Romans 10:1-4). To have zeal without knowledge is to run full speed into a ditch. Yet, to have knowledge without zeal is to be stagnant and useless in the kingdom of God. Our zeal must motivate us to speak up for God and serve Him, even when it is not easy (Matthew 16:24-25). In a country where so many campaign for so many earthly causes, we need a new generation of Phinehases who will campaign for the eternal cause of Christ.
Enjoy Peace with God
God promised a covenant of peace with Phinehas as a result of the courage and conviction he showed (Numbers 25:12). It is more important to be at peace with God than to have peace with man. Maybe Phinehas doing the right thing raised some eyebrows in the Israelite camp as Phinehas killed this couple right before their eyes. Some people might have even viewed Phinehas as a troublemaker and a disrupter of the peace. The truth was that Phinehas removed God’s wrath from the people, and they enjoyed true peace as a result. God calls us to be peacemakers, and that often involves engaging in conflict to accomplish peace (Matthew 5:9). God made peace through the blood of Jesus’ cross (Colossians 1:20). Phinehas enjoyed peace with God, and that is what mattered the most.
We too must prioritize peace with God above peace with all others. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, but He also promised to bring division (Matthew 10:34-36). The division that Jesus brought about came as some believed in Him and others did not. Even within the same household there might be differing views of Jesus that could lead to problems within a family (Matthew 10:37). If we cherish peace with our family over peace with our God, we will forfeit the covenant of peace that we can have with the Lord. Phinehas was willing to be at odds with everyone else if it meant peace with God, and we should do the same (Romans 5:1-2).
The Old Testament was written and preserved so that we could learn from it (Romans 15:4). The world wants to muzzle Christians and to tie our hands, but we must resist the world (1 John 5:4). It is not enough to whisper about righteousness among ourselves. We must speak of it openly to the world. We can stand up for God and stand against sin while still being respectful and kind (2 Timothy 2:24-26). We need a new generation of Phinehases who will stand up, confront evil and enjoy God’s blessing as a result.