I have to admit that this chapter seems a little disjointed and slightly confusing to me.
We start off with the Moabite women seducing Israelite men, causing the Israelite men to start also worshipping Ba’al – or actually its defined here as “the Baal of Peor”. It kind of seems to make sense, in context, given that the previous couple of chapters were all about Balak, the king of Moab, trying to get a curse put on the Israelites. When it didn’t happen, it could be that he suggested that his female priests go out there and invite the Israelite men to their sacrifices.
Just a thought.
This is not a good thing, though. God won’t have any other gods being worshiped alongside him. He tells Moses to bring the leaders of the people and kill them in broad daylight.
Then the story moves on to an Israelite man from the tribe of Simeon.
Then an Israelite man brought to his family a Midianite woman right before the eyes of Moses and teh whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. ~ Numbers 25:6
So Phinehas, one of the priests, runs both of them through with a spear, and the story continues:
The LORD said to Moses, “Treat the Midianites as enemies and kill them, because they treated you as enemies when they deceived you in the affair of Peor and their sister Cozbi, the daughter of a Midianite leader, the woman who was killed with the plague came as a result of Peor.” ~ Numbers 25:16-18
So was this the Moabites or the Midianites?
Doesn’t matter, because really the ultimate focus is on the Israelites, isn’t it. God doesn’t want us playing the field, he’s about spiritual monogamy.
What I really take out of this chapter, though, is the behaviour of Phinehas. He didn’t hesitate, and God compliments him for it.
These two show up, almost in total defiance. How the plague, Moab and Midian fit together is irrelevant, really, when it comes down to the fact that this guy has basically thrown his defiance back in God’s face. Here are the people, crying out to God for healing, protection and salvation, and this guy flaunts his sin in front of all of them.
Phinehas has nothing to do with it. He must have moved pretty quickly, and runs them both through.
The LORD said to Moses, “Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away fromt he 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.” ~ Numbers 25:10-11
Looking up zeal on Merriam Webster, the definition is: eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit of something.
So God is also zealous for his own honour. God himself acted quickly, eagerly and ardently for his honour when the Israelites were turning their backs on him so strongly; hence a plague.
In today’s society, I doubt we’re called to go running people through with spears; but what level of zeal do we have for God’s honour? Are we eagerly and ardently pursuing the honour of God? Do we stand for it? Zealotry has, throughout history, become this sign of even going beyond eager and ardent interest; the way we see zealotry these days is almost a single-minded pursuit of something.
This is one of the characteristics I believe God is calling for his army to have once again. Zealotry. I believe God is calling a people to be single-minded in their pursuit of him. Eager in their pursuit of his honour. Fervent in their pursuit of his glory.