*image originated here
Numbers 21 – 25
The Israelites start whining again. This time God sends a plague of serpents until God tells Moses to make a snake and put it on a staff so that when the people look at it they will be healed and live.
From there God again provides for them, water. But, the people sing only of themselves.
“‘Spring up, O well! Sing about it, about the well that the princes dug, that the nobles of the people sank – the nobles with scepters and staffs.”‘
– Numbers 21:17-18
Like in Edom, Moses sends ahead to the King of Sihon of the Amorites to let the Israelites pass through his territory. The king refuses and brings out his army against Israel. Israel defeats him and takes his land all the way to the borders of Moab.
This is where it gets interesting, because the king of Moab, Balak, sends for a man named Balaam. Balaam is to come and curse the Israelites for Moab so that when they go to war against them, God will give Israel into the hands of the Moabites. Balaam tells the kings messengers to wait while he consults with God on what God would have him do. God tells Balaam not to go with the kings messengers that God has already blessed the people Moab is afraid of. Balaam tells this to the kings messengers and they return to the king with Balaam’s message of refusal. Balak then sends a more numerous and splendid party to Balaam asking why he has refused to do the king’s bidding and promising him a handsome reward for cursing Israel. Balaam tells this party too, that he will first consult with God to see what He would have him do and that even if he were to be offered Balak’s entire palace filled with silver and gold he can only say what God would have him say.
God tells Balaam this time to go with the men, but to only do what God has told him to do. Balaam sets out the next morning with the king’s messengers and God decides to make it really clear how He feels about this situation. His angel stands in thier path with a sword in hand ready to kill Balaam, but Balaam’s donkey balks and will not go forward so Balaam beats him. This happens three times. On the last time God opens the mouth of the donkey and the donkey demands of Balaam why he is beating him. The donkey claims to never have behaved this way before. Balaam is of course so angry that he tells his donkey he would kill him if had a sword in his hand at that moment, but he cannot deny that his donkey has never acted like this before their journey. Then God opens Balaam’s eyes and shows him what danger he had been in. Balaam admits to God that he has sinned, he did not realize God was standing in the road to oppose him, but that if God is displeased with him, Balaam will turn around and go home. God tells him to go on, but only speak what God tells him to.
Balak tells Balaam to curse Israel three times and three times God puts His words of blessing into the mouth of Balaam to act as His oracle.
“May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!”
Of course Balak responds by basically telling Balaam to not bless or curse anyone, but God is not finished with this arrogant king. He gives to Balaam a few final messages for the people who stand against Israel. A King like none other will arise out of Israel and their enemies will be conquered: Moab, Edom, Seir, Amalek, the Kenites, and all others who think they can stand against God will be utterly destroyed. There will be no survivors of the enemies of this King!
Meanwhile Israel has rebelled against God again, taking the god of the Moabites and worshipping it, idulging in sexual immorality. God calls together the leaders responsible and begins to kill all those opposing Him. 24,000 people are dying and still an Isrealite man has the audacity to bring a Moabite woman whom he is sinning with, right past the Tent of Meeting where God is handing out judgement for these crimes! Phinehas the son of Eleazar the preist, sees this, takes a spear and kills both the guilty man and woman. God then ends the plague. The LORD says,
“Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them.”
With Phinehas a lasting covenant of peace and the priesthood his given because of his zeal for God.
What does zealous mean?
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, zeal is when a person has a strong feeling of interest and enthusiasm that makes them very eager or determined to do something. In thier example this is a word representing enthusiasm, passion, and a strict adherence that person or cause.
To have that kind of a relationship with God in a world that refuses to acknowledge Him places the zealous in a war zone. Balaam loses out on riches and power because he lives by God’s words. Phinehas is raised above all the other priesthood because he puts an end to two blatantly defiant sinners in defense of God’s honor.
Don’t get the wrong idea! God is not saying go out and kill all the people you see sinning… No! His job is the judgement, there is a minute number of circumstances that, that kind of violance is acceptable before God and remember that God was still blessing the people of Israel even after they had rebelled against Him time and time again. He blessed them even being aware of how they were sinning right at that moment.
Think of it this way: if you are a parent and your child does something wrong, you punish them. If you are aware that another parent or child desires to hurt your own kid, you defend your child and bless them. You do this even when you are angry with that child for something they have done wrong, because you know your child’s failings too. This doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences for your child. But it is between you and your child what those consequences are, because they are to strengthen that child’s character and give them life in the long run. Anyone else involved in dealing out hardship to your child, has only evil and destruction as their intent. That is the difference.