Then they yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor, and ate sacrifices offered to the dead; they provoked the Lord to anger with their deeds, and a plague broke out among them. Then Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stayed. And that was counted to him as righteousness from generation to generation forever.
The psalmist recalls a very unholy incident as he continues to reflect on the history of Israel. The incident is recorded in the book of Numbers, chapter 25. While they are in the wilderness Israel is becoming a people of monotheism, a belief in one God, compared to the other people/nations around them that believe in many gods (polytheism).
In this one particular incident, sexual relations were beginning to happen with the men of Israel and Moabite women-while in pagan worship. It seems that Balaam is the one that was a catalyst to bring this onto Israel (see Numbers 31:16). He presented himself as a friend to Israel and we find that he was not their friend.
Many years ago, a former Pastor spoke of the intermingling of faith and used this text as an example of ‘Syncretism” – (meaning the intermingling of different faith groups; cultures). The incident as recorded in Numbers 25, if continued, would have taken Israel out as a nation. The negative impact was happening pretty fast, according to the reading—to the point of men participating in the worship of Baal. God, in his nature of holiness and righteousness became angry at Israel. They were a stiff-necked people; Like many of us can be.
God was angry at the sin that was happening and what adverted his judgment was the anger and action of Phinehas, son of Aaron. An Israelite man flaunting his sin brought a Midianite woman into his family tent in front of Moses and all of Israel. They knew what he was doing, so did he. Phinehas became righteously angry and killed them both in the act and adverted the wrath of God.
Lessons that we can apply today: (1) Be careful of your anger. You can experience an anger that is righteous. However, recognize it, and be careful not to physically or verbally harm another person. Killing and stoning is not part of our New Testament covenant with God. (2) Have a yearning for God and his holiness; A relationship with him through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let that yearning for relationship drive you closer to God. (3) Stay in your relationship with God and focus your relationship with others that have a same worldview. In other words, don’t give up your faith or relationship with God due to a friend’s faith that is different than yours. It is ok to stay in relationship with your friend, just be careful not to give up what you believe in for the sake of your friend. Represent God and your faith and relationship in him. The relationship with God can be made stronger as you read through the Word of God; the Bible. (4) There are some narratives in the bible that speak of killing, like the story of Phinehas. Read these narratives in the context that they are in and do not make an attempt to justify the action in the narratives as something that would be appropriate for today. If Phinehas would have taken that action today, he would be arrested for murder. Remember the narrative, story, it had taken place 3,000-4,000 + years ago in a different culture than ours today. I am not advocating what Phinehas did was right or is right for today.
God, the creator of the heavens and earth, was developing a Nation of people that believed in him, a monotheistic people. Israel, as recorded in the bible “acted out” as they were being developed, much like we do in our humanness and in our faith. We can learn from Israel about God and his character.
Psalm 106: 24-27 What can we learn from this text?
Then they despised the pleasant land, having no faith in his promise. They murmured in their tents, and did not obey the voice of the Lord. Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them that he would make them fall in the wilderness, and would make their offspring fall among the nations, scattering them among the lands.
The Israelites grumbled against the Lord because of the work that it would take to capture the promise land. A land that was theirs from the time of Abraham. What is grumbling? How does one get to the point of grumbling?
The synonyms to grumbling are irritable, touchy, complaining, (and more). We grumble because we do not get our way. Picture a child throwing a fit because the mother or father told the child “no” or “you have to do your homework before you are can play.” That is how Israel responded. They had a fit, complained, because they lost their faith in God. It was all about them and their needs.
God’s reply was to allow the nation of Israel to travel the desert, wilderness, for a generation (forty years). In other words, the generation of Israelites that literally saw the miracles of God passed away, with few exceptions (Caleb, Joshua, and Moses).
However, during that time in the wilderness a nation, a people, were well developed and ready to take back the land of their Father, Abraham.
The lessons that we can learn are: (1) Be content with where you are in life, unless God has given you a strong desire for something. The Israelites were not content enough to trust in God to meet their needs. They wanted what Egypt offered; What they thought of as safety and security. (2) Be careful not to lose your faith in God. In their day, faith came by hearing the stories—the narrative—of God and Israel. Today our faith is added to in the Word of God and through our life experiences, as the Word of God intersects with our life. (3) continue to remember your story, how you came to personally know God. Share that story with your children.
May the Lord bless you and keep you, may he make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; May the Lord turn his face to you and grant you peace. Amen.
© Dan Kinjorski, 6/3/2019
Dan is in a second career, that of Counselor, but he is a pastor at heart. He desires to present the Word of God in its context and then challenge the reader in its application to our lives. It is the Word of God that brings revival to our souls. The psalmist writes, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock, and my Redeemer.
Dan and Maribel Kinjorski
Dan and Maribel are Bible Teachers. They love to expound on the Word of God. Maribel has been involved in Church since an early age. A graduate of the University of San German, Puerto Rico, in Business Administration and Economy. Dan is a graduate of East Coast Bible College (now shuttered) and the Pentecostal Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity (1999) , Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (2019), and now working on a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology: Counseling Education and Supervision.