Phinehas: Skewered Sinfulness Stops Fury
Our verses for today start at Number 25:6 but I believe you have to go back and include 25:5 to get the story of Phineas correct.
Moses called together THE JUDGES of Israel. As you might recall, on the recommendation of his father-in-law, Moses had set up a hierarchy of governing men from the community. From Exodus 18:21, 22 we learn that Moses was counseled to, “select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times.
These were the people that God, through Moses, commissioned to “Take all the leaders of these people, kill them and expose them in broad daylight before the Lord.” It was their job and their duty. In the same way a judge in our courts may be commissioned to deliver a severe sentence to a convicted criminal or a police officer or soldier may be put in a position to use deadly force in the conduct of their duty.
But the judges did not go into this duty with a carefree attitude. In Numbers 25:6 we read that this whole assembly (not just some of them but all of them) were weeping at the entrance to the tent of meeting. They were crying because of the sin, but also because of the seriousness of the burden placed on them by the sin of the people. They did not want to kill their brothers and cousins, fathers and sons.
When, in the middle of all of this, with 24,000 people dying, with the judges assembled in mourning and repentance, crying tears at the tent of meeting, along boldly strides Zimri with a Midianite women in tow, taking her brazenly into his tent in broad daylight to defile and reject God’s commandments. Multiple witnesses, verdict delivered.
The fact that all of the judges did not rise up against this man is a testimony of how shocking the immoral act was given the situation. But zealous Phineas, raised as the grandson of the High Priest and the son of the current High Priest stands up and delivers justice.
With that one bold act, the plague stopped. It was not the death of Zimri that paid the price. It was the dedication and conviction of Phinehas that restored God’s faith in His people.
We are not called to be executors of God’s wrath. Yes, there is grave sin in our time committed by brazenly spiteful and wicked people. Pick any abomination and there are not only people practicing it, but those who promote it. But we are not ordained as judges tasked by God will carrying out His sentence on these people. Phinehas was. That is the difference.
In Matthew 7, Jesus taught, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
But that does not mean that we are not supposed to demonstrate zeal in the duties that have been commanded of us. We just have different duties than Phinehas and the judges of Israel had (praise the Lord for that!). We should be zealous in being holy. We should be zealous in being nourished by the Word. We should be zealous in obedience. We should be zealous in parenting and teaching. We should be zealous in generosity. We should be zealous in the chastity and fidelity of our relationships. We should be zealous in going and making disciples. We should be zealous in ensuring others will “know we are disciples by our love.” (John 13:35)
We close our lesson with Balaam and the fact that he, a mortal man, was killed by the sword of the Israelites. But he has a legacy. His legacy is what not to do. In every situation he is mentioned it is always a negative. Despite delivering 7 fold blessings on the Israelites and coming face-to-face with the Angel of the Lord – there is nothing positive in his legacy, just what not to do. How do you want to be remembered – for being zealous or for being greedy? For being the one who God finds loyalty and bravery and the justification for ending the plague or as the one who brings on the anger of the Lord and plagues on people?
He did it in zealous obedience. 24,000 people were dying from sin and it was Phinehas’ job to follow the verdict given by the Lord.
by staying obedient to Him and His word
taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin
Killed by the sword by Israelites
He does not tolerate sin in His people
To be holy – to not be lured into wickedness and evil. To avoid temptation