The Zeal of Phinehas

Scripture Passage: 
Numbers 25:1-18

INTRODUCTION: Man, in his dealings with the faults and sins of others, usually falls into one of two extremes. He either over-condemns or he over-tolerates. We either condemn like a Pharisee or allow anything like the Corinthians. Phinehas was a man who knew when a stand had to be taken. His zeal was well-placed.

  1. THE LEGACY OF BALAAM (Numbers 25:1-3)
    1. The Sins of Israel (Numbers 25:1-3)
      1. The people are in Shittim (Numbers 25:1).
        1. The last camp before going into the land (Joshua 2:1; Joshua 3:1)
        2. How easy it is for us to be at the door of victory and still mess up in rebellion and disobedience.
      2. Fornication (Numbers 25:1; 1 Corinthians 10:8)
      3. Idolatry (Numbers 25:2-3; Psalm 106:28-30)
        1. They ate (Numbers 25:2; Psalm 106:28).
        2. They bowed (Numbers 25:2; Exodus 23:24).
        3. They joined (Numbers 25:3; Hosea 4:17).
          1. The phrasing shows that idolatry is spiritual fornication.
          2. They “joined” to Baal as a man and woman join in marriage (Matthew 19:5-6) or as a fornicator is “joined to an harlot” (1 Corinthians 6:16).
          3. To serve a false god is to commit spiritual whoredom against God (Leviticus 20:5; Ezekiel 23:7; Hosea 4:12-13).
        4. Here and in other places (Exodus 34:14-16), fornication (a sin of the flesh) leads to idolatry (a sin of the spirit).
          1. The order is important. Many think that fleshly sins are not really that important, but sins of the flesh lead to spiritual sins.
          2. God’s final judgment is that “their abominations were according as they loved” (Hosea 9:10). That is, their love of fleshly pleasures led them to deny God Himself and serve Baal.
    2. The Counsel of Balaam (Numbers 31:14-16)
      1. From this passage we learn that though Balaam was denied a chance to curse Israel, he was ready to counsel the Midianites on how to seduce them so that God Himself would turn on them.
      2. Balaam taught Balak how to cast a stumblingblock before Israel.
      3. The stumblingblock consisted of
        1. Eating things sacrificed unto idols
        2. Committing fornication
      4. No wonder he is such a hated character in the New Testament.
    3. The New Testament Testimony
      1. The way of Balaam (2 Peter 2:15); his way is a way of unrighteousness; it is a way that follows the lusts of the flesh and the desire for personal gain.
      2. The error of Balaam (Jude 1:11); the error of Balaam is that he worked for reward and not for God; even when he did right, he did it as an hireling and not as a servant of God.
      3. The doctrine of Balaam (Revelation 2:14); his doctrine was to do whatever he could to bring about the results he desired; he opposed God and resorted to deceit and wickedness; anything goes in achieving his desired end.
  2. THE JUDGMENT OF THE PEOPLE (Numbers 25:4-5)
    1. The Rebel Leaders To Be Hung (Numbers 25:4)
    2. The Followers of Baal To Be Slain (Numbers 25:5; 1 Kings 18:40)
  3. THE ZEAL OF PHINEHAS (Numbers 25:6-9)
    1. The Sin (Numbers 25:6)
      1. The origin of the sin – “one of the children of Israel”
      2. The rebellious nature of the sin
      3. The openness of his rebellion – “in the sight of all the congregation”
    2. The Saviour (Numbers 25:7-8a; cp. Numbers 16:44-48)
      1. The person (Numbers 25:7)
        1. Phinehas which means “mouth of brass”
        2. The son of Eleazar and the grandson of Aaron
      2. The work (Numbers 25:7-8)
        1. He saw it and rose up.
        2. He took a javelin in his hand and went after the man into the tent.
        3. He thrust both of them through and the plague was stayed.
      3. NOTE: Man has a problem with his “belly.” The belly pictures man’s selfish desires. Those who do not serve Christ serve “their own belly” (Romans 16:18). Paul warns of those whose “God is their belly” (Philippians 3:19). We know then why Cozbi was thrust through her belly.
    3. The Ending and Effects of the Plague (Numbers 25:8b-9)
      1. The plague came as a result of this sin.
      2. The plague killed 24,000.
        1. These are also mentioned in 1 Corinthians 10:8.
        2. Numbers mentions 24,000 while 1 Corinthians mentions only 23,000.
        3. Corinthians mentions 23,000 who died “in one day.”
        4. The problem began earlier with the death of the leaders in this sin (Numbers 25:4).
        5. Their deaths brought the total number up to 24,000.
  4. THE REWARD OF PHINEHAS (Numbers 25:10-13)
    1. The Accomplishment of Phinehas (Numbers 25:10-11)
      1. Turned away God’s wrath
      2. He was zealous for God’s sake.
    2. God’s Covenant with Phinehas (Numbers 25:12-13)
      1. A covenant of peace (Numbers 25:12)
      2. A covenant extending to future generations (Numbers 25:13)
      3. A covenant of an everlasting priesthood (Numbers 25:13)
      4. Because he made atonement for the children of Israel (Numbers 25:13)
      5. He had righteousness accounted to him (Psalm 106:30-31).
  5. THE JUDGMENT OF THE MIDIANITES (Numbers 25:14-18)
    1. The Identity of the Guilty Couple (Numbers 25:14-15)
      1. The Israelite (Numbers 25:14)
        1. Zimri which means “praise worthy”
        2. A prince of a chief house
        3. The son of Salu - a Simeonite
      2. The Midianitish woman (Numbers 25:15) - Cozbi which means “liar or deceitful”
    2. The Command to Smite the Midianites (Numbers 25:16-17; Numbers 31:1-16)
    3. The Cause of God’s Judgment on Midian (Numbers 25:18)
      1. They vexed the Israelites (2 Peter 2:7-8).
      2. They beguiled the Israelites (Genesis 3:13; 2 Corinthians 11:3).

CONCLUSION: The wiles of Balaam and the Midianites should remind us of the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6:11). By God’s grace, we should be able to stand against these wiles. Sometimes, it takes the zeal of Phinehas. Are you zealous for your Lord?

David Reagan and Andrew Ray

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 14:32

The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death.