ZEAL FOR GOD'S HONOR
It was at that moment that one of the Israelite men brought a Midianite woman toward his tent right in front of Moses and the entire assembly. Aaron’s grandson, Phinehas saw what was happening and was so angry that he took action. He seized a spear and followed the man and the woman right into the tent. The text says that he drove the spear through both of them—through the Israelite and into the woman’s body. Instantly the plague stopped but 24,000 people died as a result of this heinous sin.
God spoke to Moses, Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them. God blessed Phinehas with a covenant of peace and again says it was because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites.
Three things came to mind as I read this passage. First, all sin is committed against God. Sure, our sin affects the people around us in a number of ways, but our sin is committed against the one who gave us his law. Sin is rebellion against God and it is against his name and against his honor that we sin. Perhaps we might think that it is “just a small sin” and “it won’t hurt anybody” but we should be very aware of the fact that our “small sins” are still rebellion against God’s law and an affront to his name. Maybe recognizing that fact will help us think more carefully about how we view our own sin.
Second, Phinehas was honored by God because of his zeal for God’s honor. Here was a man who recognized that the sin of the Israelite men was a blasphemy against God. Phinehas had such a high regard for the honor of God’s name that he would not tolerate such blatant sin. Of course many people in our day would consider him to be judgmental and self-righteous. But the judgment was God’s judgment and the righteousness about which he was concerned was God’s! Those of us who are involved in the leadership of churches need to have such zeal for the honor of God. We often misplace our zeal. We are zealous for church growth. We are zealous for making a name for our church. Our zeal should cause us to say, “It’s all about God! Let us make his name bigger and more famous!”
Finally, God’s covenant with Phinehas reminds me of his covenant with Christ. God said he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites. It was because of Phinehas’ zeal that the judgment of God was turned away from Israel. What Phinehas did removed the separation between God and his people by dealing with the sin. That is exactly what Jesus did! King David wrote, Zeal for your house consumes me (Psalm 69:9). After Jesus drove out the moneychangers from the temple the disciples recalled this passage, Zeal for your house will consume me (John 2:17). His own death on the cross removed the separation between God and his people because he made atonement for our sin. God raised him from the dead and when he ascended to heaven he was seated at the right hand of the Father.
May our zeal for the Lord’s honor motivate us to bring many into his house so his name will be honored and glorified!