Bamidbar (Numbers) 22:2–25:9
Before I address this week’s Scripture portion (parasha), I want to explain a small change in my upcoming blog entries; from now on, I will include the entire scriptural portion that I’m writing on, instead of just referencing it. I realized that for one reason or another, many readers do not take the time to read the entire passage, and since one of my goals in writing this blog is to encourage you to read the Word, I decided to start including it. In my opinion, knowing the Word is of primary importance in our walk with the Lord, and I encourage each one of you to read it from beginning to end!
In this week’s portion, we see the tragic results of one surrendering to his/her own flesh, as well as how important a role that leaders have in God’s kingdom:
While Israel remained at Sheetim, the people began to commit harlotry with the daughters of Moab. For they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel joined themselves to Baal of Peor, and the Lᴏʀᴅ was angry against Israel. And the Lᴏʀᴅ said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of the people and execute them in broad daylight before the Lᴏʀᴅ, so that the fierce anger of the Lᴏʀᴅ may turn away from Israel.” (Numbers 25:1–4)
The children of Israel camped at Sheetim, which was the last dwelling place of Israel before entering into the Promised Land. I believe this is very significant, since they were right at the end of their wandering, and just before entering into the Promised Land. Sadly, they allowed their flesh to take over and began to commit harlotry with the daughters of Moab, which led Israel to worship foreign gods.
Often we give in to our fleshly desires, which may start with a “smaller” sin… we say to ourselves, “Just this time”, but it doesn’t stop there. Why? Because the reality is that our “small” sins inevitably lead to “bigger” ones, causing us to end up “bowing down” to other gods, figuratively speaking. Please understand that sin is sin – all sin leads to death (Romans 6:23); I am just pointing out how we tend to justify our sin by labeling certain sins as less significant than others.
And Israel’s sin certainly brought dire consequences. God clearly commanded His people to not have any other gods before Him. Because they bowed down to foreign gods, God’s anger burned against the entire nation. But it is interesting to note that He held the leaders responsible for the people’s sin, and He instructed Moses to execute them in order for His anger (judgment) to turn away from the entire nation. We must stop and take heed of this! In God’s economy, leaders are in the place of power, and are responsible for calling out sin, and doing what they can to stop it, if possible. Leaders are to be an example to the Body of Messiah, and they will bring judgment upon themselves for not taking this task seriously. Yet, Moses once again did not exactly follow the Lord’s command:
So Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you slay his men who have joined themselves to Baal of Peor.” (Numbers 25:5)
Instead of confronting the leaders (judges) of Israel as the Lord commanded, Moses told them to kill only those who bowed down to Baal! Moses basically took matters in his own hands and gave a punishment that he thought was more just. We learn of how bad the result of that sin was, and how it affected so many:
Then behold, one of the sons of Israel came and brought to his relatives a Midianite woman, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, while they were weeping at the doorway of the tent of meeting. When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he arose from the midst of the congregation, and took a spear in his hand; and he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and pierced both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman, through the body. So the plague on the sons of Israel was checked. And those who died by the plague were 24,000. (Numbers 25:6–9)
Tragically, the sin spread into the camp of Israel, resulting in 24,000 people dying from a plague. The plague stopped when Pinchas (Phineas) took matters into his own hands and killed the Israelite man and the Midnianite woman who, as we will discover in next week’s portion, were in a place of leadership.
Now the name of the slain man of Israel who was slain with the Midianite woman, was Zimri the son of Salu, a leader of a father’s household among the Simeonites. And the name of the Midianite woman who was slain was Cozbi the daughter of Zur, who was head of the people of a father’s household in Midian. (Numbers 25:14–15)
Pinchas was zealous for the things of God, and as a result of his zeal, he took leadership and ultimately did that which the Lord commanded from the beginning, which ended the plague.
Are you zealous for the things of God? Or are you allowing compromises to dim your zeal for the Lord and His righteousness?
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