Numbers 25 begins with a sad tale. The children of Israel allowed themselves to be drawn away by the “daughters of Moab” and bowed themselves to the Moabites’ gods. God became angry and sent a plague which killed 24,000 of his people. God told Moses to slay all those who had joined themselves to the Moabites’ gods. Moses passes this on to the judges of the people and it is done. Or so everyone thought. In verse six we see that, while everyone is gathered by the door of the tabernacle grieving over what had happened, one man brazenly appeared with one of these women. What happens next might be considered startling:
Num. 25:7-8 “And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from the midst of the congregation, and took a spear in his hand; and he went after the man of Israel into the pavilion, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.”
No doubt, some in Israel thought that Phinehas had acted precipitously. Lest any accuse him of that, God pronounced His blessing upon Phinehas:
Num. 25:10-13 “And Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying, Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: and it shall be unto him, and to his seed after him, the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was jealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.”
Phinehas turned away God’s wrath because he was jealous for God. His anger on God's behalf at seeing his countryman turning after another god resulted in his killing that man. He was so zealous to keep Israel pure for God that he wiped out the sin from Israel and was vindicated by God.
Would God say the same about me that He said about Phinehas? No, I’m not advocating “honor killings” in the church, but just how jealous am I for the Lord? Does it disgust and sadden me when I see people turning from the Lord, having been caught up in this life? When an impenitent sinner is defiling spiritual Israel am I ready to “Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, even as you are unleavened”? (1 Cor. 5:7) Or do I keep making excuses for the sinner?
Speaking of purity, how far am I willing to go to maintain my own purity? Paul talks about beating his body to keep it under control (1 Cor. 9:27), a figure of speech I’m sure, but one that illustrates Paul’s dedication to his purity. Do I keep my carnal, fleshly urges under tight control or do I give in to every temptation? How hard do I fight, how jealous am I for God?
God made a “covenant of peace” with Phinehas because Phinehas demonstrated a fierce jealousness, or zealousness, for the Lord. When God sees my zeal for Him, would He offer me the same, or would He turn sadly away?