Sunday, November 18, 2012

Having Zeal like Jesus

Numbers 25:11 (KJV) Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy.

When zeal for God intersects with youth
In Numbers 25 we find God's people reeling from the heels of compromise.  The Bible tells us that the people heeded the counsel of the pagan prophet Balaam and began to commit fornication with the women of Moab and spiritual fornication through the worship of Moabite deities. (Numbers 31:16; Revelation 2:14)  Needless to say God pronounced judgment upon the leadership of Israel, a plague broke out and the people were desparately weeping at the entryway of the tabernacle along with Moses. (Numbers 25:4, 9) To compound the situation, an Israelite man decided to flagrantly commit sin by parading both he and one of the women before the people who were gathered. (Numbers 25:6) 

Phineas, the young grandson of Aaron and son of Eliezer, the high priest of Israel, could not stand it any longer.  The Bible records his response in Numbers 25:8  "he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel." We know that Phineas could not had been older than 20, since his name does not appear in the census of men 20 years and older in Numbers 26.  He was but a youth, and yet he displayed the wisdom of the aged.  He was zealous for His God, so much so that God pledged he would have a perpetual priesthood. (Numbers 25:12-13)

What is zeal for God?
Phineas the youth, in the priestly line of Israel, a young lad, took up the cause as God's man - he was zealous for God.  In fact redemptive history has this to say about Phineas' zeal in Psalm 106:29-31"Thus they provoked Him to anger with their deeds, and the plague broke out among them. 30Then Phinehas stood up and interposed, and so the plague was stayed. 31And it was reckoned to him for righteousness, to all generations forever." What did Phineas exhibited that stands out in scripture in defining him with the zeal of God?

1. Promoted God's work.   Numbers 25:1-7 
The Lord said to Moses, who in turn told the judges of Israel, that all who joined themselves to the revelry of Baal of Peor and the immorality of the people were to be executed. (Numbers 25:4-5)  Phineas took up the cause of God's work.  Lest the plague be stayed, lest the rebels parading the cause of unrighteousness be ceased, God's work would be jeopardized.  Phineas, the youth of his time, promoted God's work.  But notice also...

2. Prioritized God's Word.   Numbers 25:8-9
Phineas did as God and Moses had told the judges - he went in and slayed those who were alligned with the rebellion against God.  He heard the word of God - and he acted accordingly.  Zeal for God does not know slow nor delayed obedience - only instant obedience to God's word.

3. Empowered by God's Holy Spirit.   Numbers 25:10-18
God said that Phineas did what he did with "His jealousy" (NASB) or as the KJV renders "His zeal".  Undoubtedly Phineas acted under the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  The "zeal of the Lord" or "jealously of the Lord" is used elsewhere to describe the power of the Holy Spirit. (Isaiah 9:6-7) 1

Phineas' zeal was like Jesus zeal
In John 2:13-17 we find Jesus at the beginning of His ministry.  We see Him going into the temple and throwing out the money changers
The zeal of God finds its zenith in the life of Jesus.  Phineas foreshadowed what would be the fulfillment in Jesus Christ.2  Jesus too exhibited zeal for God:

1. He promoted God's work John 2:13-16
He told those in the temple they were making the Father's house into a house of merchandise.  What was profane had trespassed on the grounds of the sacred.  Zeal for God draws the line between the two.  God's work needs zealous people who will defend and promote the glory of God.

2. He prioritzed God's word  John 2:17
In acting out Psalm 69:9, Jesus is placing God's word above popularity and favor with men.  The zeal of God consumed him.

3. He was empowered by the Holy Spirit  John 2:17
Luke 4:18 records Jesus at the beginning of His ministry as being empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Undoubtedly what he did in the temple was directed and empowered by the Spirit of God. 

Phineas' zeal for God was ultimately like Jesus' zeal.  As we close out this blog today, I want to urge you and I to have zeal for God like Jesus.  Two passages in the New Testament describe the kind of people Christians ought to be like with regards to zeal for God:

As Christians, may we have the zeal of Jesus
Romans 12:11 (NIV) "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord."

Titus 2:14 (NASB)  "who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds."

May we be those who promote the work of God, prioritze the word of God and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. 


The phrase "zeal for God" is used in scripture to describe the ministry of the work of the Holy Spirit.  Compare 2 Kings 19:31; Isaiah 9:7; 37:15.  I would suggest that since Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, and since Isaiah 9:6-7 predicts the Messiah with the phrase "zeal of the Lord of hosts", then it follows that "zeal of the Lord" refers to the activity of the Holy Spirit working in the Messianic ministry of Jesus and in the life of the believer who exhibits zeal for God.

2 Phineas is a type or shadow of Jesus Christ. Like Jesus, he made atonement, or satisfaction for the people. (Numbers 25:13; 1 John 2:2) Secondly, like Jesus, Phineas was declared by God to have a perpetual priesthood and covenant of peace. (Numbers 25:12; Hebrews 7:24-25) Phineas' priesthood in terms of its ongoing nature would last as long as the Aaronic priesthood, which terminated once Christ came. Thirdly Phineas' name in the Hebrew means "face open to God". 2 Corinthians 4:4 describes the glory of God being in rhe face of Jesus Christ. 


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