Bible Order: Joshua 8–10
Chronological Order: Numbers 33–36
New Testament Only: Mark 11:27–12:12
The Zeal Of Phinehas
The Israelites have been wandering in the wilderness for forty years and most of those that were 20 or older when Israel left Egypt are now dead. As they have wandered they have gripped and rebelled and been punished a number of times. Now, as the Lord prepares to take them into the Promised Land we see that they have begun to have promiscuous sex with the people of Moab and to bow down to their gods. You don’t have to be a genius to see where this is headed.
God instructs Moses to “hang” all the chiefs of Israel so His “fierce anger” will turn away from Israel. Moses tells his “judges”, his troop of faithful men, to go through the camp and kill those “who have yoked themselves to Baal of Peor”.
God is holding the leadership of Israel responsible for the perversion of their relationship with Him. Men, you and I are the spiritual leaders in our homes and God holds us responsible for any perversion of our family’s relationship with Him. Our response to spiritual “whoring” around and degenerate behavior should be as one “jealous” for the Lord.
Zimri, the son of a clan chief, felt he didn’t have to obey God or repent of the very behavior that lead to the death of so many. As the rest of the congregation were grieving over their loss and their rebellious behavior, Zimri took a Midianite woman, Cozbi, into his tent for immoral purposes. He did this right before the eyes of Moses and the entire congregation of Israel while they were on their knees before the Lord in an attitude of repentance. Zimri clearly didn’t think the rules applied to him. His attitude and behavior jeopardized the wellbeing of the entire congregation.
Phinehas, enraged at the blatant disrespect for God and the congregation, immediately put an end to the affront. God made it clear that Phinehas saved the congregation from further discipline. As the spiritual leaders in our house I would hope that we wouldn’t allow our families to get so far out of alignment that drastic measures we be required. Today, we don’t kill people that violate God’s commandments nor should we. We should not abuse those under our charge for their rebellion against God either. But we should establish an understanding within our homes that rebellion against God will not be tolerated.
Of course, in order to hold our household to a “no rebellion” standard means we are going to have to start with ourselves. We cannot lead our homes toward godly behavior if we ourselves are violating godly behavior. We must first take the plank out of our own eye. That doesn’t mean we don’t establish a godly standard in our home until we are perfect; to do so would be to wait until Christ’s return which is a little too late. No, since we too are sinners, we have to start with ourselves; set the example and through the struggle toward righteousness learn the humility necessary to lead others to similar behavior.
If you repent of your sins and attempt to restore yourself to godly behavior, your family we see the change that takes place in you, you will understand how difficult it is to return to right relationship with God, and be able to lead your family back to Him with the love and humility necessary to do so effectively. If, however, there is blatant, unrepentant rebellion among your family you must stand up, in love, and insist that it stop. This kind of thing is a cancer and it cannot be allowed to continue for it will lead to spiritual death.
It’s hard to know how and when to respond to rebellion in our family. The key is to lead by example and confront sin in love not anger. For us guys anger tends to be about us and our feelings rather than about God and the wellbeing of those under our authority. There is such a thing as righteous anger but I would suggest that you let the anger cool before tackling the behavior that ignited the anger.
Finally, I’d like to share a chart that compares the census from the beginning of Numbers with the census that we read about in today’s passage. Most of those tribes that saw a decrease in population were instigators or participants in the many rebellions that took place over the previous 40 years. This is significant because the allotment of territory each tribe would receive in the Promised Land would be based on this census; more people means more territory.
Since the Promised Land is also a metaphor for Heaven it might be interesting to contemplate the connection between rebellion and our inheritance in eternity.
Have a blessed day!
Your brother and servant in Christ,
Dying to self, living to serve!
(Originally posted 2/24/10)