Numbers 25:1-18 (Part 2) – Have You Ever Let People Run Over You…Looking for Phinehas Confidence

Posted: October 19, 2016 in 04-Numbers
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Numbers 25:1-18 (Part 2)
Moab Seduces Israel

One of my own faults that I am a conflict avoider. I will avoid conflict at all costs most of the time. I will take and take and take and someone really has to push me beyond all reason to get me to react. So much so that I am a conflict avoider, I will often accept things that make me angry without saying a word, bury it deep down inside, and smile and go on. There are times that things just really bother me or hurt me and I don’t say anything. I just accept it and go on. I have always been this way for as long as I can remember. Maybe, it is because of a basic insecurity in me that I feel like that my feelings are not really legitimate. Maybe, that insecurity makes me feel less than others and thus my feelings are not as important as those of others. Maybe, I am not a quick thinker (the reason I love to write is because of the fact that it allows me to ponder things at length) so I am not good at arguing my rights with others. When I get angry enough to have a confrontation with someone over treading roughshod over my personal rights and desires, I get overcome with the emotion and anger of the moment and do not think clearly enough to be quick with the comment or retort. That makes me shy to argue with others. I like to think of myself as a person with high intellect and insight but get me into a confrontational situation and I am like the kid with the dunce hat on in the corner. I always walk away from arguments and start thinking at length about what I should have said. I should have said this. I should have said that. Conflict then to me is a disgusting thing that I want to avoid at all costs. I am like Rodney King’s statement, “why can’t we all just get along?” I wish that I could change that about myself. To stand up for what I believe in and not to let people get the best of me. Even if it is just a difference of opinion that does not have major impact on a relationship, I would it about myself to be able to just say, “hey, man, you’re wrong!” instead of just standing there thinking that he’s wrong and just smiling and accepting it. I am getting angry at myself right now for being such a wimp because I know it’s true that I sublimate my feelings, desires, and opinions just to avoid conflict whether it’s a physical confrontation or whether it’s a simple difference of opinion. For example, I would love to be able to say to my boss, “hey, I think you are wrong and here’s why…” I would love to be able to tell others that I have a different opinion and the reasons for it rather than thinking in my head that this is not a hill to die on and keep quiet.

Sometimes, standing up for what we believe in is OK. I want that for myself. Sometimes, we need to be able to stand up against the tide of public opinion. Sometimes, we need to stand up to the tide of conflict and let it wash over us instead of turning and just going with the flow of the current. My own insecurities and willingness to keep quiet even when things bother me is contrasted by the reaction of Phinehas in this passage that we are looking for a second time today, Numbers 25:1-18. My thought was I want to be Phinehas when the chips are down and our actions matter. I don’t want to be that guy who just keeps quiet and says this is not a hill to die on:

25 While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, 2 who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods. 3 So Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor. And the Lord’s anger burned against them.

4 The Lord said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of these people, kill them and expose them in broad daylight before the Lord, so that the Lord’s fierce anger may turn away from Israel.”

5 So Moses said to Israel’s judges, “Each of you must put to death those of your people who have yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor.”

6 Then an Israelite man brought into the camp a Midianite woman right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 7 When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand 8 and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear into both of them, right through the Israelite man and into the woman’s stomach. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped; 9 but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000.

10 The Lord said to Moses, 11 “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. 12 Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. 13 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.”

14 The name of the Israelite who was killed with the Midianite woman was Zimri son of Salu, the leader of a Simeonite family. 15 And the name of the Midianite woman who was put to death was Kozbi daughter of Zur, a tribal chief of a Midianite family.

16 The Lord said to Moses, 17 “Treat the Midianites as enemies and kill them. 18 They treated you as enemies when they deceived you in the Peor incident involving their sister Kozbi, the daughter of a Midianite leader, the woman who was killed when the plague came as a result of that incident.”

When you read this passage, it is clear that Phinehas’ anger is proper and justified. Phinehas was angry because of his zeal for the Lord. So, when defending the honor, holiness, purity and righteousness of God, anger, righteous anger, is sometimes justified.

That raises the question though. How can we know when our anger is appropriate and when we should restrain it? That is the Final Jeopardy-like question for me personally. I think we must ask these questions when we get angry:

1. Why am I angry?
2. Whose rights are being violated here (mine or someone else’s)?
3. Is there an eternal, unchangeable truth of God being violated here?

If it is only our rights that are being violated, then reasonable discourse should be attempted to resolve the situation. But if a truth of God such as our value as human beings, such as violation of commands of God, the eternal truths of God, rights of others, and so on, anger can be justifiable to be expressed. There is a difference between righteous anger over violation of God’s eternal truth and anger over someone violating a preference that I have personally. If we are to become more and more like God each day through the Holy Spirit’s action in our souls, we are to become like Him when it comes to sin. God is wrathful towards sin. It should anger us too. Sometimes, it is OK to get angry (though angry expressed through violence is not often the answer as it was in Phinehas’ case). It is OK to get angry when anger calls us to action to defeat that which is a bastardization of God’s truth. It is OK to get angry when sins are perpetrated with impunity. It is OK to get angry when it calls you to action to change the world. Martin Luther King was angry over the violation of God’s principle that we are created in God’s image and should be treated as such. His righteous anger led him to change the world. His righteous anger led him to stand up for God’s eternal truth despite that it might (and did) cost him his life. I want to be able to stand up (in a constructive and usually nonviolent way) for God’s eternal truths as they apply to me personally and to others. I want to be that kind of person who is unafraid to stand up for what they know to be right regardless of the cost. I want to not value peace and quiet so much that I let things that are blatantly wrong and against God’s eternal truths just pass as OK. I want to be Phinehas and not have to think about whether I am right or wrong and be living in God’s will in such a way that I know that what I am doing is OK in God’s eyes. I don’t want to have to think about whether this is true or that is true. I just know it because of living in God’s will. I want to be in God’s truthful will so much that I have the discernment to detect bullcrap from a mile away. I want to be fully confident in God’s truth that it is simply a part of who I am and not question as to whether my opinion is valid or not. Give me Phinehas confidence, Lord!

Amen and Amen.

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