Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of the people and hang the offenders before the Lord, out in the sun that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel.” So Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Every one of you kill his men who were joined to Baal of Peor.” And indeed, one of the children of Israel came and presented to his brethren a Midianite woman in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Now when Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose from among the congregation and took a javelin in his hand; and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body. So the plague was stopped among the children of Israel. And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal. Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace; and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.'” (Numbers 25:1-13)
The Zeal Of Phinehas
Sin is never tolerated by the Lord and often He would react against the nature of man to punish them. On one occasion it was the grandson of Aaron the priest who acted in accordance with righteousness and truth to stop a vile act from happening before the tabernacle of meeting. The people of Israel had come to the land of the Moabites and remained in Acacia Grove. Balak the king of Moab had tried unsuccessfully to bring a curse upon the Israelites through the prophet Balaam but it was through the persuasion of the prophet the children of God were lead into committing harlotry with the women of Moab. Angered by this, the Lord began to plague the people in a terrible manner that would lead to the deaths of twenty-four thousand Israelite’s. Moses was instructed by God to execute those who were joined to Baal of Peor. While this is being done an Israelite named Zimri brought a Midianite woman named Cozbi to the tabernacle of meeting and presented her before the people. It has been suggested the language of the text suggests the two were engaged in sexual immorality at the time and as a blatant refusal to submit to the will of the Lord. Phinehas could not allow such an outrage to continue and the scriptures speak of his zeal being aroused to punish the couple. Taking a javelin in hand he goes into the tent where Zimri and Cozbi are and thrust them through stopping the plague among the people. The wrath of God was stayed because of the zeal of Phinehas. His family will be blessed for generations to come as he showed great character in doing what needed to be done and exercising a decisive act of God’s holiness against sin.
Phinehas is a man of courage who took upon himself the task of establishing holiness and setting a pattern for the faithful to follow. Sin has been the problem of man since the garden of Eden but what has been lacking are the faithful who are willing to stand for holiness in a world of ungodliness. The world of Noah was destroyed by a flood but eight people made a conscious decision to stand against the norms of society and remain faithful to the Lord. Noah condemned the world by his willingness to stand for truth pleading for others to see the coming day of the Lord. As the waters engulfed the world everyone knew the eight safely protected in the ark were right but it was too late. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were four young men taken from their homes to a land of strange gods, food, language and culture. Everything about them was vile and corrupt as the nation of Babylon served the pagan culture of a wicked society. In all of their dealings with the Babylonians these four men took a stand against those things that were unholy and immoral. Their zeal for the Lord was unmatched as they stood before the king defiant to serve his will whether in eating certain foods, falling down to an image of gold or obeying the law of the land to not pray to Jehovah God. Like Phinehas they had a zeal for truth and acted upon it. When the early church first began and persecution arose against the disciples, brave men and women stood before the Jewish oppression and Roman persecution and boldly proclaimed their allegiance to the King they served and with zealous hearts of faith preached the word of God in a world filled with hatred, animosity and immorality. Many gave their lives for what they stood for. Their zeal was not fanatical but fantastic. They believed in the power of God and lived every day with that zeal burning in the hearts.
There is a need for men like Phinehas in the Lord’s church today who will take the javelin of truth and stand for those things that are righteous, true and holy. The work of the Lord is built upon hearts that are courageous enough to be set apart from the world and let the norms of society see the holiness of God. Too many Christians compromise with the world and like the people of God adulterate themselves with the schemes of the world to be like the world. When the Israelite’s were in Achaia Grove they committed harlotry with the women of Moab. While the people of God today may not engage in the sexual promiscuity of the world yet their hearts are filled with the worldly desires to dress like the world, act like the world and live like the world. Churches are being filled with women who parade themselves with immodest dress. Social drinking is an accepted character of those who are ignorant and weak in their faith to serve the one true God. Apathy rules in the hearts of many who find worship to the Lord dull and without purpose. Children are being taught to love the world instead of loving God. They are not shown the way of holiness but popularity. Success is measured by the standards of the world instead of the word of God. In this world there is a need for those in the church to have the zeal of Phinehas and take the standard of truth and boldly assert the claim of righteousness among the people of God. Fathers need to a stand for truth leading the family of God. Mothers must show the children the way of modesty and propriety. Young people can be wonderful examples of Phinehas as they stand against the wiles of youthful pleasure. The church needs a host of men like Phinehas who are filled with a zeal for the Lord. Men and women of action who believe in the cause of the Lord will act with courage. Churches that are strengthened with the zeal of serving the King according to the will of God will shed a light of righteousness in a world blackened by sin. There is never been a greater time for zeal to fill the hearts of God’s people and to regain the cause of Christ in a perverse and wicked generation than now. Rise up. Be zealous. Serve the cause.