March 24

March 24

Phinehas & Baal-Peor — Israel’s sin against God & Phinehas’ passion for God.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Numbers 25

Reading 2: Psalm 106:24-31

Reading 3: Revelation 2:14

Yesterday we saw Balaam trying to help the King of Moab, while also maintaining the appearance of being a follower of the God of Israel. Today we see the result of that duplicity. Revelation 2:14 tells us that Balaam showed Balak how to get Israel to sin (and thus to open themselves up to the consequences of sin).

The Moabites were distant cousins of the Israelites, descended from Lot through his incest with his daughters. They worshipped the god Chemosh by offering human sacrifices, and honored other gods (baals) by associating them with various places in Moab (such as Baal-Peor in today’s chapter).

So the Israelite men were invited to join in these sacrifices and then defiled themselves further by having sex with the Moabite women. It was the ancient equivalent of coming to Myrtle Beach for a week of golf with the guys, then going to a “gentlemen’s club” and hiring a prostitute.

God had already commanded Israel to keep themselves pure, and to not associate with the nations in the land, so this was out and out rebellion against God. And consequently there were severe repercussions. A plague broke out, killing thousands, yet a man of Israel brought a Midianite woman to his tent (the Midianites were allied with the Moabites and the Amorites in resistance to the Israelite advance).

Phinehas has great zeal for purity in obedience to God, and spears both the man and the woman in their sin. This zeal is commended by God.

So all this violence has a lesson to teach us. Wholehearted devotion to God is vital if we are to avoid the consequences of compromise. There will always be temptations to sin, but a passion for God will cause us to overcome.

Together: where do you sense zeal or passion for God in your life? How can you express it in ways that reflect Jesus?

Have a great day!