Offbeat #3 - Phinehas

This week, in our exploration of unusual or overlooked biblical characters, we take a look at Phinehas, an Israelite and priest who we first read about toward the end of the life of Moses in Numbers 25. First though, let’s take a step back. Just prior to this account, an evil prophet named Balaam tried and failed to curse Israel, but we learn in Numbers 31 that Balaam suggested to the Moabites that they could undermine Israel’s relationship with God (thus weakening them) by seducing and intermarrying with them.
You see, in order to preserve Israel as a nation set apart for him and to keep them from worshipping the false gods of surrounding nations, God strictly required Israel not to intermarry with surrounding people groups. Yet Israel was frequently led astray, and this occasion was no better. The language of Numbers 25 is strong, saying that Israel “began to whore with the daughters of Moab.” In an attempt to shake them up that they might repent and return to him, God sent a deadly plague among the people.
Things are so bad in Israel that Moses, Aaron and a few of Israel’s other leaders were weeping at the entrance of the Tabernacle. Then, right in plain view, in an open act of continued defiance, an Israelite man brought a Moabite woman into his tent to sleep with her. Enter Phinehas. This was apparently the last straw for this godly man. Upon seeing the Israelite man acting so defiantly toward God and Israel’s leaders, Phinehas grabbed a spear, followed the man and the Moabite woman into the tent and ran them both through.
In response to Phinehas’ fervor for God and for righteousness, God ended the plague right then and there and declared, “Phinehas the son of Eleazer, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel in that he was jealous with my jealously among them.” Phinehas’ zeal for God made him a single-handed hero of Israel.
Now, go and do likewise! Just kidding... sort of… This story is a bit jarring to our modern western sensibilities and, in order to grasp what Phinehas’ story means for us today, some explanation is needed. This isn't made explicit in scripture, but things do seem to be different under the New Covenant. Though God can and will use calamities to call people back to himself, there are no New Testament examples of God sending widespread disease or disaster until we get to descriptions of final judgment in Revelation. This suggests that perhaps God is withholding his active wrath until those days (2 Peter 3). At the very least, if there are instances when God actively sends these things, we don't know if or when that's the case. Jesus and the apostles certainly seem to warn against this kind of thinking (Luke 13:1-5, John 9:1-3).
So, all that being the case, what is there for us to take away from the story of Phinehas?. First, we can see how little it takes to provoke God’s mercy. It wasn’t widespread repentance by the Israelites, but the zeal of one man that stirred God to intervene on behalf of his people. God loves to be merciful. He is truly “Yahweh, Yahweh, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6). Second, as we saw last week so we see again: what you do matters. That others are not being faithful to God is not an excuse. We can’t simply hide in the crowd or go along to get along. God’s call is for total commitment to him. And who knows…. perhaps your radical faithfulness to God, lived out with humility, is just the prompt he’s looking for to bring about redemption, restoration, or transformation to many.

Sean's Picks

Church History In Plain Language - This book by Bruce Shelly is one of my more memorable books from seminary. Rather than giving you a bunch of dull names and dates, Shelly explores major characters and happenings in church history and shows why they matter.

Succeeding at Work while Remaining Faithful  - Continuing my effort to share with you some international voices, check out this message from the Lausanne Global Workplace Forum, which explores the story of Daniel to explore what it looks like to be faithful to God in the workplace.

Missions Spotlight:
Jennifer Marmolejos (YoungLife)

As many of you know, our Summer Service Project got postponed until the Fall, which we are sad about, but we never want to miss an opportunity to get creative and take advantage of the free time our students have! We show up when we don’t have too and when our programs get cancelled or postponed. I’m so thankful for a team of leaders who stay hopeful, optimistic and flexible in their schedule to keep showing up in our high school friends’ lives. Just yesterday, the boys went on a hike and the girls visited Alstede Farms to experience a sunflower maze! I’d say it was a fun and eventful experience that replaced day 1 of the service project for all of us!

This last Thursday, I also got to hang out with 4 of my high school friends where we walked around Princeton, did a little photoshoot with each of them and Brianna (graduating senior) led a devotional for us (first picture above). This last week reminded me that although programmatic events and gatherings are important, many times it’s the car rides, eating together, sitting at a park or walking around that leads to the depth of heart to heart conversations about faith and trust in Jesus Christ and conversations about our lives.

With love, Jen

Personal request: Just after seeing my dad for the first time in 4 months, a week later, I received news that my dad was recently diagnosed with prostrate and bone cancer and because they caught it too late he is stage 4. He’s certainly been through it A LOT this COVID season. If you can pray for his soul and all 11 of us siblings. The doctors can say he has 6-12 months but only God can determine that! My biggest hope is that he truly receives Jesus as Lord and Savior as some of us in the family keep sharing that truth to him.

Ministry request: Creative wisdom for us leaders as we get together later this month to plan the Fall semester together.
- For connections with more middle school & HS students! After school sports were a big part of showing up to support our HS friends and MEET their friends.
- For connections to more middle school parents for Wyldlife. We know parent involvement is HUGE in middle school.
- BRYL Financial health of this ministry
- For our leaders relationship with Jesus to grow deeper and for eagerness to continue leading and sharing His truth with our students this Fall even if ministry looks DIFFERENT.
WL leaders: Cianna, Molly, Natalia, Santino + Jared
HS Leaders: Christine, Ben, Annika + I
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