Numbers 25 is hard to read.
The brokenness that exists in this chapter is unreal. For starters, Israel is sleeping around with these pagan women. Sure enough, they are enticed by them to start worshiping their gods. Sex is powerful. The Israelites take it lightly and it ends up meaning death to thousands. I wonder if there’s a takeaway just in that for us. When you pervert what sex is supposed to be, your result is death.
Not in a 1950’s PSA sort’ve way, where someone has sex and then they get hit by a car or something. We’re reminded over and over again throughout the whole of Scripture that sin leads to death and results in it. Perhaps sex does that uniquely. It’s not a sin that is worse than other sins, they all mean death, but it does create unique challenges and ramifications in the here and now. Sexual brokenness is a heavy weight to carry.
The hero of this story is a guy who eventually gets fed up. He’s enraged at what the people are doing and the final straw is this guy that marries a Midianite. The sin jumps from this thing the people sort’ve do to something they’re content to do and are not even making an effort to correct. So Phinehas kills them in the act with a spear. Did you catch that? How else does he run them both through in the stomach?
I imagine it going down like this. He’s sitting outside, he sees them go into the tent, everyone knows what’s about to go on in there. Phinehas starts to seethe. “The Lord brought us out of Egypt. He’s leading us to a new land. He’s rescuing us and this guy is spitting in his face. He specifically said not to intermix with these people. What part of that is hard for this guy? This ends tonight. Where’s my spear?”
Did you notice that the guy isn’t even given a name until later in the story? I wonder if that’s intentional. I wonder if sin has this way of stripping us of who we are. We lose our identity in sin. We find our identity in Christ.
This act is rewarded by God. He’s makes Phinehas’ line a priesthood forever. The LORD says it’s because of the zeal Phinehas showed for Him. It’s so much zeal that God decides to relent on wiping out Israel completely. It’s as if God is saying “Daaaaang! Alright, Phinehas… I like where your head’s at.”
How are we dealing with the sin in our lives? We get two examples in this chapter. We get Zimri who embraces it and allows it to hang around and we get Phinehas who sets out to murder it. I think too often we allow sin to hang around like it’s cute. Oh, that’s my secret sin… it’s my thorn! I’m working through it, brother! But the fact of the matter is, that sin is going to destroy you. It’s not cute. It’s not funny. It’s not ok. I believe it was Matt Chandler, pastor of Village Church in Texas, that added to a relatively popular phrase by saying, “It’s ok to not be ok… it’s not ok to stay that way.”
It’s not ok to let sin lie dormant. It’s not ok to allow tiny little sins hang around unchecked. It’s most definitely not ok to embrace them and accept them without a twinge of conviction. We need to stamp it out.
We need to pick up our spears, find its tent, and run it through.