What a contrast we have in our passage today!
In the first two chapters we have Balaam who, though he doesn't believe in the Lord as the only true God, does acknowledge His power enough to know that he better say what God wants him to say. And he has to speak blessing instead of cursing on the Israelites. They are a blessed nation, a people who live apart, a holy nation. And God refuses to allow him to curse them.
Turns out they don't need anyone else to curse them, they seem to do a fine job all on their own. Immediately after this glowing report we see the the Israelites involved in sexual immorality and idolatry - both temptations our society encourages and which we need to be purposeful about avoiding!
As Rayburn points out, this pattern repeats itself over and over in the bible....
Over and over again we have juxtaposed to one another descriptions of Israel and the church as the people of God, the bride of Christ, the covenant people, and the saints or holy ones on the one hand, and as rebellious, foolish, worldly ingrates on the other. Time and time again a wonderful account of the Lord’s grace and goodness to this favored people is followed immediately by an account of the people’s ingratitude, rebellion, and foolishness. The lawgiving at Sinai was followed by the making of the golden calf; the covenant the Lord made with David and his house was followed by adultery and murder on David’s part. The Last Supper was followed by Peter’s betrayal and on and on it goes....
We are, in this way, of course, being reminded that our hope must always be in the grace of God and not in our own virtue or even the strength of our faith.
But then we see Phinehas - the ONLY person, including Moses and Aaron BTW, who stepped in to do something when confronted with evil.
Reminds me of the quote The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Edmund Burke
Note as well that Phinehas' righteous anger is commended by God, in contrast to Moses more self-centered frustration and rock striking incident. We should be angered by sin - not because of our own annoyance but because of God's holiness.
Rayburn ends with this challenge....
Believe me when I tell you there will be times and occasions enough in your Christian life when you will have the opportunity to stand up and be counted as a faithful servant of the Lord. Alas there will always be such times. Your Christian friends are speaking in a way or making plans that you know very well are not right, not honoring to the Lord. Will you speak up and declare yourself or will you stand there doing and saying nothing? Your church will begin making compromises with the world. Will you protest or will you simply go along?
Most of the church’s failure in the world has happened because most folk – real Christians all – just stood there. They could not see themselves grabbing a spear, walking into a tent, and running two sinners through! What would have happened if Phinehas had not done what he did? How many more would have died?
When that time comes for you and I - and make no mistake, it will - what will we do?
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage: Numbers 26-27