Zealous for the Lord
Dictionary.com defines zeal as “fervor for a person, cause, or object; eager desire or endeavor; enthusiastic diligence; ardor”. We see a great example of a person who is zealous for God through Phinehas, son of Eleazar, in Numbers 25:1-13. Phinehas was setting an example that the Apostle Paul teaches in Romans 12:11; “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the lord.” Before looking into why and how Phinehas exhibited his zeal, we need to look at what was going on during this time.
We learn from Numbers 22 that the Moabite king was looking for a way to defeat the Israelite army. The king asked Balaam to place a curse over the Israelite army, but God would not allow that to occur. What Balaam knew though, was that the men of Israel could be persuaded by the Moabite culture. The Moabites worshiped the false God Baal whose preferred method of worship was through sexual acts. These sexual acts were as lewd and crude today as they were back then. However, many of the Israelite men allowed themselves to be influenced by the Moabite culture; they ignored God’s warning (see Exodus 34:15). In short, many of the men of Israel were ignorant to what God had already promised them, ignorant of His word, and ignorant of the outcomes it would lead to. Enter God’s wrath and a plague upon the nation.
From this sin of the Israelite people, some 24,000 people would die unnecessarily (if they had followed God’s commands). Moses had called a meeting where they began to pray for the plague to end. Moses was told by God that they needed to kill the leaders who had turned their backs on God’s word and assimilated with the people of Moab. This meeting is something akin to the Tuesday night prayer meetings we hold today. The people of God, on their knees, crying out to him with all they have looking up to God for answers. In complete disregard for God Zimri, one of the leaders of the Tribe of Simeon walks through the middle of the prayer meeting with his Moabite wife in tow, demonstrating that he is going to worship Baal. What a complete affront to God! Luckily for the people of Israel, Phinehas was ready to serve his God with zeal.
Because of Phinehas’ zeal for God we learn three things about zeal. The first was that to be zealous for God, you need to be in his presence. Phinehas was at church; he was one of the gate keepers of the threshold of the tent. This was a job, position, and opportunity he relished. He was considered to be a guardian of the holiness of God. As Psalm 84 says, “Better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere…” For Phineas, there was nothing better than being at church, in the presence of God.
We also learn that when you are zealous for God and notice a problem, you address that problem. When Zimre affronted God, Phinehas did not stand by idly, he sprung into action. The Apostle Paul writes about this action in 1 Timothy 5:20 “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.” Phinehas took God’s word to heart by picking up a spear and killing both Zimre and his wife. Phinehas actions were responsible for the plague ending. He was not passive, he fought for the glory of God which leads us to our last point.
Because of Phinehas’ actions, God rewarded him. Notice that Phinehas did not act out of a desire to obtain a reward. It was not “if I do this… then I will receive a reward”. He acted out of an abundance of his heart for God. His life was about honoring God and his action proved his zeal. Phinehas kept his fervor for the Lord throughout his entire life. God rewards those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews (11:6).
If you want to be great, take advantage of every opportunity to serve for the benefit of others to the glory of God. Phinehas served others (stopping the plague) by acting for God. Not only are believers and non-believers watching what you are doing, but God is watching you. Be zealous for him!