Sermon notes are a tad behind… As our family gets well, things have been a tad hectic. But there’re still coming. This was WEEK-BEFORE-LAST week’s sermon. And tomorrow, we’ll post LAST Sunday’s. So bear with us… we’ll get back on track!
Last week we saw how God will protect us from enemies even unbeknownst to us. Having the ability to take that which was meant to curse and turn it into a blessing. At the end of the passage last week, it seems as though Balak, fearful King of Moab, and Balaam, a greedy prophet of God, go their separate ways and that was that. But that’s actually not the case.
Let’s pick up where we left off last week and look at Numbers 25:1-5. My, how the nation turned so suddenly. Prior to the story of Balaam, Israel was resting after whooping up on two nations that attacked them, now they’re going to worship Baal by bowing down, eating food sacrificed to it and sleeping with women (Baal was a Canaanite fertility god, hence the reason for the sexual practices).
We’re going to see that the Israelites didn’t get to this all on their lonesome, they had some help, but, we need to note the personal responsibility of our actions.
If a person decides to sin, that person will bear the consequence of that sin.
Deuteronomy 24:16, “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin.”
We are never forced to sin, we choose to do it. Even if someone put a gun to your head, it’s still a choice you’re making. We’ve discussed this in the past, when you come to your time of judgment, God doesn’t give you a pass because someone tricked you or made it difficult to choose to not sin…the only pass you get is confessing your sin and pleading the blood of Christ on your life to forgive you.
A chunk of Israelites are breaking commandment number one, and they’re dying for it. However, as I stated, they were nudged in this direction by a very bad man, especially according to Scripture. And that man was Balaam, but how bad was Balaam? Sure he tries to curse Israel but the plans are thwarted. We already established last week that Balaam was a greedy person, but he didn’t even get his money, or did he? His greed causes him to not let well enough alone. What Moses doesn’t record, is that after the unsuccessful cursing, Balaam makes a deal with Balak so Balaam can get his money.
In speaking to the Church of Pergamum as part of the Seven Churches in Revelation, John writes in Revelation 2:14, “But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. God is never pleased, and will always deal harshly with those who would cause His children/believers to stumble.
Jesus says in Mark 9:42, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”
But how did Balaam, a prophet who knew God, get to that point? His greed.
1 Timothy 6:9-10, “…those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
I didn’t hang out at this subject too much last week, knowing we would be here this week. Flee the desire for more money, and chase the desire for more of God! Don’t think that because you’re not rich that you don’t struggle with greed. It’s weird, but some of the greediest people I know are poor. It’s not money that’s the root of all kinds of evils, it’s the love of it.
Seek more of God, then allow Him to provide and open doors.
As we saw, Moses obeys the command of the Lord and open judgment (being hanged or impaled in the sun) is given. This sin would not be swept under the rug, or kept quiet. However, one particular Israelite gets a tad brazen. Look at Numbers 25:6. This Israelite (we’ll see his name is Zimri) gets a Midianite woman in front of Moses and the congregation. Granted, they probably went into a tent, but their sexual activity took place right in front of the tabernacle! Pretty dumb. (BTW, Midianites were a bit a nomadic group of people, hence some were living in Moab.)
Look at Numbers 25:7-9. Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron wasn’t having any of that. We live in a tough world where not only sinners are rampantly sinning, but self-proclaiming Christians are living immoral lifestyles. Slowly we’re seeing churches becoming more and more lax in various acts of righteousness and unrighteousness, and we as believers need to stand for what we know is Godly behavior. I’m not saying that we need to become more legalistic, and as discussed before, we’re not physically throwing spears through people, but people need to know that the wages of sin is death. It’s not easy to stand against sin and for righteousness, especially when we’re surrounded by the opposite, but it is totally worth it as God can take one righteous act and allow it to make a difference.
In this case, it stops the plague that’s killing the Israelites. Though we are not told of any kind of disease killing the Israelites, the fact that God is the one directing judgment and killing through the judgment, it’s considered a plague. As a side note, verse nine says that a total of 24,000 Israelites were killed. However, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:8 says that 23,000 were killed. Why the discrepancy?
Two explanations. First, Paul says that 23,000 were killed in a single day. Some believe it’s possible that 1,000 were killed earlier when Moses was first commanded to kill the leaders of the families. The second explanation is that Moses killed 1,000 through the judges as instructed by God, and the other 23,000 were killed by God Himself. You can take either explanation, but those are the two most common explanations for the discrepancy.
As was just stated, it’s totally worth doing one righteous act in the midst of rampant unrighteousness as we’ll see in Numbers 25:10-13. God will give him peace and the priesthood will continue through him.
Note though, it’s not so much for the act of throwing a spear through two people. Although that’s a pretty amazing feat. What drove Phinehas to do what he did is what God commends. My translation says he was jealous for his God, while other translations may use the word zeal/zealous. The idea here is that Phinehas was passionate about the things God is passionate about. A people purified and made holy before the Lord.
What drives us towards the actions we make and the stands we take? Our love for and jealousy of our God, or our ideologies? That we are conservative or liberal? Or we’re pro-life or pro-choice? Or we like this person or dislike that person? Or we go to this church or they go to that church?
Phinehas didn’t care what other people thought or their ideologies…he cared about God.
The story ends with the names of the culprits and a command by God for the people of Israel. Look at Numbers 25:14-18. How does this apply to us? We talked about this a few weeks ago, but in short, we need to strike down every thought that would come against God.
The main question at the end of today is, where is your zeal for God? Do you have any?
Really think about this. Do you take stands because of your liking of a particular ideology, person, political party…or because of your love for God? If it’s not the latter, let’s fix that today.
Pastor Dave is the Pastor at Crossroads Church in St. James, please join us each Sunday At 10am at 721 Weston Ave. Sermon notes give you an idea of the message, but are nothing compared to the live message, and the christian fellowship.