Sleeping with the Enemy

September 16, 2015 at 2:25 pm | Posted in Weeping Creeping and Sleeping with the Enemy | 2 Comments
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In a previous lesson I discussed the blessings that Phinehas somewhat surprisingly received from the Lord for his violent attack on Zimri and Cozbi. When thinking through the reasons for this it is important to remember that Phinehas, unlike so many of his compatriots, had not joined himself unto Baal, and so his thinking was not cloudy or unclear or tainted by self-interest. He was thinking like God, and therefore He had a zeal – even a violent passion – for the holiness of God

Phinehas expressed God’s wrath in an atoning way. He did not kill the offenders because Zimri had personally ticked him off. It wasn’t because he was jealous that Zimri appeared to be getting away with what he wanted to be doing. It wasn’t because Phinehas wanted to show off, or because he was a sadist who just liked a good spearing. What motivated Phinehas was his intense hatred for what Zimri’s actions said about the Lord his God, and he discerned that it was time for something extreme.

As stated in the previous lesson, though, extreme physical violence inflicted upon sinners is not commanded for New Testament Christians. A principle to be taken from Phinehas’s attitude, however, is that there is a time for something as extreme as telling the truth in actions, not just words. Too many Christians today are sleeping with the enemy – if not physically, then intellectually, practically, and even spiritually. This is seen most blatantly in the ecumenism invading Christian churches, homes, and families. An adulterated, watered-down version of the Gospel deserves pointed and harsh truth. A hybrid bastardized version of the Gospel – part Christianity and part pragmatism, right in the midst of the camp, right in the middle of a ministry that calls itself by the name of the Lord Jesus – deserves pointed and harsh truth.

When Phinehas took up his spear, it looked like it was over – like it was too late. Have we lost the battle for the truth in our culture? Is right now wrong, and wrong now right? Are there now just no such things as “right” or “truth?” This is going to sound bad, but, in a way, I hope so. I hope the battle that we’ve been trying to win in our strength is over – that we’ve lost – that it’s too late. God often comes to the rescue when all seems lost. It was too late when Phinehas stood up and executed judgment. It was too late for the Israelites, and it may be too late for us, but when it’s “too late” by our estimate, that is often when God shows up – when He sends someone with the courage and the conviction, with the disregard for popularity, to take a stand and to symbolize atonement.

Phinehas stopped the plague because God really stopped the plague. Jesus didn’t make atonement by impaling us sinners on the point of God’s wrath, although that’s what we clearly deserved. He stopped God’s wrath by offering Himself as the atoning sacrifice. Will you and I weep rightly? Will we stop creeping around with the enemy? Will we stop sleeping with the enemy? Will we get out of bed with the enemy and get on board with God? May He help us.

Creeping with the Enemy

July 17, 2015 at 12:42 pm | Posted in Weeping Creeping and Sleeping with the Enemy | 5 Comments
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And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

Numbers 25:6

In a previous lesson I discussed the reason for all this weeping. The Israelite men had been seduced by Moabite and Midianite women on the plain of Moab, and had “joined themselves” unto Baal, a false pagan god, the worship of which involved fornication in order to induce supposed fertility in the crops. God was very angry about this blatant violation of His laws against idolatry, and He commanded Moses to execute the leaders, and to hang their bodies up in broad daylight.

Psalm 106 offers a commentary on this:

They joined themselves also unto Baalpeor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead. Thus they provoked him to anger with their inventions: and the plague brake in upon them.

Psalm 106:28-29

So the people were weeping not only because of the deaths of their fathers, grandfathers, and older brothers, but because of a deadly outbreak of disease. However, before you get the idea that everyone was repentant and crying the right kind of tears, you will note the first part of Numbers 25:6: “And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman…” Apparently, some of the men weren’t through partying with these pagan women. Perhaps they were too clueless to realize that God was angry (not likely), or perhaps they were just so intoxicated with sin that they didn’t care.

Who was this man who brought his consort into the place of weeping and repentance right in the sight of Israel and all the congregation? Later on in the narrative the Bible tells us his name, Zimri, and that he was the son of a prince of one of the chief households in the tribe of Simeon. His name meant “my music” or “my song” – as in “they’re playing our song.”

What about the woman? Her name was Cozbi – which meant “a doctor of the house of Huxtable who likes jello pudding pops.”

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Sorry, just kidding. Cozbi was a Midanite woman, and, in fact, the daughter of one of the princes or leading families of the Midianites. Her name, instead of meaning “my song,” actually meant “my lie,” possibly because her father had sired her with someone other than his wife, and either her mother or the other woman had been forced to admit the “lie,” and gave her the name as an apology or at least a reminder.

So there they were – Zimri and Cozbi – gallivanting into the camp at the most inappropriate time. It’s tough to analogize the impropriety and impudence of such an act – maybe we could describe it as the rough equivalent of a murderer bringing a date to his victim’s funeral. And that’s not all. They went right into Zimri’s tent, a very brazen sin and a big slap right in the faces of Moses, the leaders who were weeping before the Tabernacle, and, of course, Yahweh Himself.

In the previous lesson in this series I said that there are two different types of weeping. Weeping before God with a contrite heart is good and honorable. Selfish weeping is the kind of weeping that someone who remains at enmity with God would do. Now I will show that there is also a type of creeping with the enemy that is useless at best, and harmful at worst. Zimri was not a very effective creeper if he thought he could sneak into the Israelite camp with this Midianite woman, but, at the same time, he wasn’t suicidal. He must have deceived himself into thinking that he could creep around with sin and get away with it.

But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.

Psalm 106:14-15

Zimri lusted exceedingly, and when sinful lust takes over a man’s heart, there are times when God will give that man the desires of his heart. But those desires will produce leanness in his soul. They will produce a hunger for more sin and a reckless disregard for the consequences. They will bring about the loss of all good sense.

You and I have a great capacity and opportunity to creep around with sin. However, be warned: We may creep around with the enemies of God, but we will never creep past the sight of God. We may creep around with the world, our flesh, Satan, sinful practices, materialism, covetousness, laziness, and many more, but God sees all. We will no more evade His notice than did Zimri as he crept into his own tent to enjoy the pleasures of sin while the judgment of the God he was offending rained down all around him.

And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand;

Numbers 25:7

Phinehas’s name meant “mouth of brass.” He was not “silver-tongued.” He was plainspoken. His words were not not fancy, but they carried weight. Eleazar was the grandson of Moses’s brother, Aaron, the high priest. Phinehas picked up a spear. It was the weapon of a soldier, not a priest, and it was a no-nonsense weapon – a weapon normally used for throwing or thrusting – and he took it up with a deadly purpose.

And he went after the man of Israel into the tent…

Numbers 25:8

We don’t know precisely how Phinehas did this. Did he stride forcefully and ostentatiously? Or did, he, too, creep? Did he encounter people who inquired what he was doing as he followed Zimri and Cozbi from a distance, brushing them aside gruffly as he pursued? Or did he hang back stealthily, sneaking along like a spy following another spy through the alleys of Cold War Berlin? We just don’t know. However, I will say that there are times, when we go to confront sin in the midst of a Christian fellowship or in the lives or our friends or acquaintances, when we should use tact and discretion. There are other times when we are authorized to be blunt and direct – or maybe I should say “sharp” and direct.

And 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

Numbers 25:8

I am in no way condoning murder or even vigilantism. This was an instance of Old Testament justice under the Law of God. It is not prescriptive behavior for New Testament Christianity. If we are to imitate anything from this incident, it must be only the the principles, not the practice. However, in this particular instance:

… So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.

Numbers 25:8

Whether or not Phinehas crept up on the couple before putting a stop to their sin, two things are certain:
1. It was effective. It stopped the plague.
2. It did not displease God. In fact, it pleased the Lord very much.

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 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. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.

Numbers 25:10-13

Phinehas’s act seems so extreme, so violent, so primitive and brutal that you almost expect to find some qualifier to it somewhere in the Word of God – something at least a little cautionary or disapproving of it. But I could not find a single smudge on the character of Phinehas because of this action

Even Psalm 106, which gives the commentary on it centuries later, says this:

Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment: and so the plague was stayed. And that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore.

Psalm 106:30-31

If anything, the Holy Spirit has the psalmist make him sound like even more of a hero! Next time, we will look for clues as to what was going on in Phinehas’s mind and heart as he performed this act.


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