Numbers 25:11-13

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Delivered 7 July 2018


Zealous for ADONAI

11 "Pinchas son of Elazar, son of Aharon the priest, has turned back My wrath upon the sons of Israel being zealous among them in my zeal, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My zeal. 12 Therefore say, 'Behold, I give to him My covenant of shalom; 13 and it shall be to him and to his seed after him, a covenant of everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God and making atonement for the sons of Israel.'" (Num 25:11-13 BR)


Numbers 25 tells the tragic story of Israelites engaging in harlotry and idolatry with the Midianites. ADONAI directed Moses to execute all the leaders of the rebellion and Moses passed the order to the judges, one of whom was Pinchas. He took the first action, inspiring the other judges, and he is credited with cleansing the nation. Because of his bold initiative ADONAI gave Pinchas a covenant of shalom and a covenant of priesthood.

The covenant of shalom was not just the guarantee of a peaceful life but that he would become God's peacemaker for promoting shalom within the nation and between the Israelites and ADONAI. You can read about his national peacemaking work in Joshua 22. Pinchas was already a priest, but he was guaranteed that his descendants would have a priesthood for all time and, except for a time when the house of Ei-li served as high priests, the descendants of Pinchas held the high priesthood until the Romans destroyed the Temple.

Besides Pinchas there are four men in Scripture described as zealous: David, Elijah, Yeshua and Paul. Elijah was zealous in standing publicly against the evils of his day [1Kgs 19:10, 14]. David was zealous for the house of God and Torah [Ps 69:9; 119:139]. Paul was zealous for Pharisaic traditions [Gal 1:14], but was transformed into a zealous ambassador for the Messiah [Acts 26:19-20]. Yeshua was zealous to preserve the temple as a house of prayer [John 2:17] and to do the will of the Father [John 4:34]. Like Pinchas Yeshua made atonement without an animal sacrifice and received an eternal priesthood. Paul said that Yeshua gave himself for us so that he might cleanse for himself a people zealous for good works [Titus 2:14].

So, what does it mean for us to be zealous for the Lord? The biblical stories of passionate devotion to God can offer guidance in what that means. At the very least it's daring to be open about who you serve. Zealousness is implied in the choice to follow Yeshua. After all, Yeshua told his apostles to make disciples, not believers. It took me a while to learn that lesson.

When I was a freshman at a Christian college (a lot of years ago), the book Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer was very popular. If you're not aware Bonhoeffer was a German pastor before and during World War II who publicly opposed Hitler's dictatorship and his persecution of Jews. He was arrested and executed in 1945. His book explains what it means to take up one's cross to follow Yeshua. However, I decided not to read it at the time because I was afraid God would ask me to do something I couldn't do.

When I joined the Army several years later I did things I never thought I could do, like jump out of a perfectly good airplane. In 1980 I experienced a spiritual renewal and not long after the Spirit spoke to me directly and said "Go buy Bonhoeffer's book." I'm not saying this is God's will for everybody, but for me it was a point of repentance and obedience. Then in the same month God arranged for the Army to send me to Germany for a training exercise. While there I read the book.

God also arranged for me to stay on a base where there was a group of soldiers who were zealous for the Lord. They did not hide their faith. They prayed out loud over their meals. They played their music in the barracks for others to hear. They gave joyful praise to the Lord in public places outside of chapel. Reading Bonhoeffer and watching those soldiers motivated me to make some changes in how I lived out my faith. When I returned home I bought a fish plaque and put it up in my office as a public declaration. One of my soldiers saw it and said, "Are you a Pisces?" I said, "No, let me tell you what that means." As a result of a new-found boldness God enabled me to lead three soldiers to Yeshua and provided me the opportunity to speak in a chapel service on base.

In the spirit of Pinchas God then led me to leave the Army and pursue a ministry of shalom. That journey led Jean and me to Kansas City where I graduated from seminary and then served 21 years in a special ministry as a peacemaker to help reconcile broken relationships. For me being zealous for the Lord is being zealous for shalom. Yeshua said "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God" and in that ministry I was blessed to witness the healing of God's shalom in many lives. I think there is no greater focus for zeal than being a peacemaker for Yeshua and promoting shalom in our families, our friendships and our congregation. To paraphrase Paul's exhortation, "Zealously pursue peace with everyone" [Heb 12:14].

Barukh Hashem.

Copyright 2018 by Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.