Continued from In a World Full of Envy, Be All that You Can Be, Part 2
The last post described how Phinehas’ actions stopped the plague against the Israelites. King Balak wanted to curse God’s people, so he hired Balaam, the prophet. Every time Balaam tried to curse the Israelites, God blessed them. These enemies had to find another way to break through the Israelites’ hedge of protection. Balaam suggested that Balak get the Israelites to sexually sin with Moabite women, which would then cause God’s people to curse themselves. It worked, causing Phinehas to intervene. (Numbers 22-25)
BURN WITH ENVY OR BURN WITH ZEAL
In a previous post, we discovered how envy and zeal are closely related, one’s negative while the other can be positive, depending on the focus of our zeal. In the New Testament Greek, envy and zeal both come from a root word that means to get hot or heated. The definition goes on to describe water boiling in a pot over the stove.
We can burn with envy as we continually focus on how another person has what we want. OR, we can burn with zeal like Phinehas, who nurtured thoughts of God’s goodness, greatness and holiness. He was so jealous over God’s reputation that he acted swiftly and decisively to stop blatant sin in the camp.
We learn later on in the passage why Phinehas did what he did! Burning with zeal, his holy jealously for God’s name, kept him from having fear of man or negative consequences from his actions.
The Lord said to Moses, “Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites. Since he was as ZEALOUS for my honor among them as I am, I did not put an end to them in my zeal. –Numbers 25:10-11 (CAPS mine)
“Burning with zeal” can inspire you to break out and do some unexpected things in your passion for God!
Due to the boiling point of both envy and zeal, we may not be able to predict how we’ll respond to certain situations. Though we ever seek to be in “control of our own spirits,” both envy and zeal are not based on rational, objective decision-making. We don’t think to ourselves in a calm manner, now I choose to envy this person. Envy builds in intensity as we focus on the object of our envy. The water boils and spills out of the pot in its intensity. The same can happen with the flip side of envy, zeal.
Similarly, zeal also builds in intensity as we focus on God: His Word, the throne room, the fact that God dwells in unapproachable light, his voice as the sound of roaring waters, his commandments, the truth of his Word, etc., etc.
When Jesus turned over the tables and made a whip to drive out the money changers and merchandised animals, he wasn’t calm, cool and collected.
The Bible clearly tells us, at the moment, Jesus had been consumed with zeal for His Father’s house! Focused on His Father’s honor and the true purpose of the House of God, he broke out against those who were making the church a business to benefit themselves.
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME.” –John 2:13-17 (CAPS mine)
HOW IS MY PASSION FOR GOD? LUKEWARM, HOT OR BOILING OVER
I once confronted someone who had blasphemed God. I couldn’t believe what he was saying: God was a myth! The Bible was untrustworthy! Jesus was a failed Messiah! He was in the midst of his friends, many of them Christian, when he had made these statements. This wasn’t just a personal conversation. He was trying to convince a group of people that these false statements about God were true.
Though the Christians present knew what he was saying was wrong, they didn’t intervene. I, on the other hand, couldn’t help but intervene! I was the only person who said something. Looking back, I had burned with zeal that day for the truth of God’s Word and His reputation.
I’m not encouraging everyone to do as I did, because God calls different ones at different times to do different things in different ways. I personally felt called to do something in this situation. Also, we know these sorts of things will happen more frequently as the Day of Christ approaches. What will we do in response? Will we have the zeal to intervene as needed to confront sin and injustice?
It didn’t matter whether I was the only one to say something or not, because, at that moment, I cared more about the truth of God than what others would think of me. So, I understand, to a small measure, the boiling blood that flowed through Phinehas the day he intervened.
GOD DOESN’T MEASURE BY THE CULTURE, BUT BY THE HEART
We live in a society that honors silence over speaking the truth and rational lukewarmness over zeal. Why? Because zeal scares people. Unfortunately, some may even misconstrue this passion for God as unloving.
We can’t escape the fact, no matter how much we try, that God COMMENDED Phinehas for both his ZEAL and his ACTIONS, defending God’s honor. Filled with zeal for God’s name, Phinehas strode with purpose and struck with holy violence the sin that was in the camp.
And, who of us, can speak against Jesus’ actions when He was consumed by zeal.
To tell you the truth, zeal flies in the face of today’s humanistic tolerance and low-level regard for God’s truth and reputation.
No wonder God PRAISED Phinehas for His actions!
In theory, we may all speak about having passion for God as our highest and most vital consideration, but do our actions reflect zeal? The thing about zeal… though we, as human beings, can hype things up, we can’t manufacture zeal by our own efforts. In other words, it can’t be faked.
Passion for God has a way of begetting more passion for God, until the water is set to boil!
Following this analogy, we don’t want to set God on the back burner on a low simmer as we tend to other things; we want him front and center on high heat! Guess what, when those conditions are right and the temperature is set, the water will boil!
GOD GAVE PHINEHAS SOMETHING WE ALL WISH WE HAD: THE COVENANT OF PEACE
When the Bible speaks of covenant, it’s more serious than a mere promise. Consequences ensued when a covenant was broken. For example, God “cut” a covenant with Abraham. Animals and birds were cut in half, which made way for a bloody path. In the “rules” of covenant, both parties walked between the pieces to symbolize how if either of them broke the covenant, then the responsible party’s life would be taken. In this case, God made an unconditional covenant with Abraham, which didn’t depend on Abraham’s ability to keep it. God would keep the covenant for both of them. He put Abraham to sleep and God, Himself, walked the bloody path. (Read Genesis 15)
So, God brings out one of his best gifts to honor the person who honored Him: a covenant of peace.
… “Therefore tell him I AM MAKING MY COVENANT OF PEACE WITH HIM. He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood,because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites.” –Numbers 25:12-13
What is this peace? To find out what it is, we need to look at the word in the original Hebrew language.
“Peace” here is the Strong’s number word H7965, shalowm.
Shalowm can be defined in various ways: safe, well, happy, friendly, favor, health, prosperity, peace.
The Bible uses this particular Hebrew word in other similar ways:
- Safety, soundness in body
- Quiet, tranquillity and contentment
- Peace from war
- Peace and friendship with people and with God in covenant
We all want these things!
- a peaceful home
- a mind free from anxiety
- safety for our family
- health for our bodies
- a satisfying sense of wholeness
- a fulfilling life
We do everything we can to get and secure these things! Though human beings strive for power and money, underneath it all, is really an attempt to secure peace.
FORFEIT RIGHTEOUSNESS AND TRUTH TO GET PEACE?
It’s ironic, but people, sometimes, forfeit standing up for what’s true and right for… you guessed it, peace. Because we want to have peace with others, we won’t do or say anything, even when the situation desperately calls for it. Having this counterfeit “peace” is a way to preserve ourselves.
But, Phinehas stood up against the grain and did what would seem to our culture counter-intuitive and, to some, just plain wrong! There’s no way he’s going to get peace fighting for what’s right and standing up for the truth! You don’t get peace by telling people Jesus is the only way to salvation!
In our humanistic culture, the things you must avoid to have peace with others actually keep us from being light and salt to our society. You don’t bring up hot button issues. You don’t tell people the truth when they’d rather not hear it. And you certainly don’t call sin for what it is.
THE UPSIDE-DOWN KINGDOM OF GOD
Misty Edwards, a worship leader, explains in one of her songs how we live in an upside-down world, where God’s values sharply contradict and oppose the values of the world.
In her song, “Servant of All,” Misty Edwards sings:
It’s the inside-outside, upside-down kingdom
Where you lose to gain and you die to live
It’s the inside-outside, upside-down kingdom
Where you lose to gain and you die to live
This battle between two kingdoms explains how Phinehas, acting out of zeal and holy violence, pleased God and got the “covenant of peace,” whereas the permissive leaders who allowed the people to sin didn’t get peace, but conflict with God.
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. –1 John 2:15-16
PLEASE GOD OR PLEASE MEN
If our desire is to please God, then all of us who’ve been trained in our humanistic culture to tolerant in silence everything around us, must wrestle with these passages. Even though our flesh may chafe at what I’m writing, nothing I’ve written contradicts Scripture, but only affirms God’s holiness and His desire for His people to be set apart from the world.
Through the pattern, paradigm and example Phinehas has set, God tells us that standing up for righteousness and truth will lead to peace, not being passive, tolerant and silent.
Not to say, there won’t be a measure of backlash, persecution and rejection. Most likely, there will be. But, if God gives you the “covenant of peace,” you can be sure none can take it away!
GOD GIVES PEACE THE WORLD CAN’T GIVE OR TAKE AWAY
When God gives you His peace, you feel like you’re in the eye of the storm. All around you is raging and crazy, but God keeps you safe and protected, and gives you “the peace that surpasses all understanding.”
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. –John 14:27
I’ve had those moments when insulted, rejected, ganged-up on, accused of being various things for standing up for what was right, I felt God’s peace that can’t be explained or duplicated or manufactured. Reflecting in those situations, I’d think to myself, I should be feeling threatened, intimidated, oppressed, undone, etc. Why don’t I feel those things? Honestly, I didn’t feel any of those things, even in the heat of battle. While the storm raged, undeniably, God was with me, shielding me from it all!
I’d rather have God’s peace any day over and above the “peace” you have to maintain by forfeiting your integrity and convictions in Christ to bow down to “the spirit of this age.” That shallow, counterfeit peace is as fragile and precarious as juggling porcelain tea cups. On the other hand, God’s peace can keep your oak tree deeply rooted in the face of the biggest storms of life.
How could holy violence against the enemy help those lost and held captive by the enemy? PEACE AND JOY REST ON A FOUNDATION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, –Romans 14:17
God confirms the effects of the “covenant of peace” in this New Testament verse. You can’t have peace with God, unless you’re right with God. And you can’t have joy when you’re unsettled and don’t have peace. Those things build on one another.
Jesus had the most joy of anyone on earth, because He was “loved righteousness and hated wickedness!”
You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. –Psalm 45:7
PHINEHAS’ ZEAL CANCELLED GOD’S WRATH TO RECONCILE PEOPLE TO GOD
God spotlighted Phinehas for favor and blessing, because of his zeal! Just like Jesus, he loved righteousness and hated wickedness! He didn’t just think sinning was a bad idea; he hated what it was doing to the people.
God goes so far as to say that Phinehas’ holy action made atonement for the people of God.
…because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made ATONEMENT for the Israelites. –Numbers 25:13
The Bible has used this Hebrew word, kaphar (H3722), to mean to cover, purge, make atonement (by legal rights), make reconciliation, cover over with pitch…
Two of the most telling Biblical usages of the word are “pacify” and “propitiate.”
- to quell the anger, agitation, or excitement of
- bring peace to (a country or warring factions), especially by the use or threatened use of military force.
To propitiate means to [win or regain the favor of (a god, spirit, or person) by doing something that pleases them].
Phinehas’ actions, instead of alienating people from God, actually made a way so they could properly be reconciled to God.
We, too, can have God’s “covenant of peace,” and reconcile people to God when we follow Phinehas’ example by standing up for what is right and true!
REFLECTION AND APPLICATION QUESTIONS
- How can burning with zeal keep you from burning with envy? (Consider how when I’m more focused on God, I’ll be less focused on myself.)
- Develop a plan to search out Scriptures on who God is and meditate on the attributes of God: his love, holiness, sovereignty, wisdom, etc. The more we meditate on God’s goodness and holiness, the more we can burn with zeal.
- Read The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer. Tozer goes into depth describing the attributes of God. Don’t only read the book, but make it your holy meditation.
- Be honest now! Do you have a problem with what Phinehas did in Numbers 25? Did you find it too harsh or mean? Why or why not? Companion question: Do you have a problem with how Jesus drove out the money changers? Why or why not? [Our answers to these questions may express how much our humanistic society has influenced our thought patterns.]
- How is your passion for God? Lukewarm, hot or boiling? One of the ways you can tell is your zeal for God’s honor and reputation! How can you put God more on the “front burner” and turn up the heat in your relationship with Him?
- May I recommend another book to you? Passion for God by Mike Bickle will help stoke the fire in your heart for intimacy with God. Since he’s lived a life of passion for God, he speaks out of his own journey and experiences.
- Explain to yourself why God praised Phinehas for his zeal and actions. Would a Phineas be praised in this generation by the world and the church? Why or why not?
- What do you have a passion for as far as ministry? What is your burden? How can you apply Phinehas’ example to your passion/burden to open up the way for more of God?
- Why did God give Phinehas the “covenant of peace?” Compare God’s peace to the world’s peace or the peace we seek to get by “playing nice” with the flesh, the devil and the world.
- Have you tried to get peace by being silent and non-confrontational? How did that work out for you? Was the peace that you got lasting and truly peaceful? Or was it something else? Describe.
- We looked at two verses about joy and how joy comes from loving righteousness and hating wickedness. Reflect on how much joy you have in your life. We can agree with God and His Word without loving righteousness and hating wickedness. Pray and ask God to put these things in your heart! Look for verses and passages you can study, meditate upon and apply to your life to grow in this area.
- In today’s world, we often think truth and a stand for righteousness will turn people away from God, instead of towards him. Phinehas’ actions ultimately express how this thinking is not always true. To have peace with God, we have to live according to His word and by His standards. How did Phinehas’ holy violence reconcile people to God?
- How can “burning with zeal” keep you from the fear of man and the fear of negative fallout from taking a righteous stance against sin and injustice?
- What the world needs now are more examples of Phinehas? Can you name a few? What characteristics about their lives lead you to see them as following the example of Phinehas? What can you do to follow more the example of Phinehas or the examples of these ones who fight against lies, sin, injustice and evil?