February 2, 2016
Have you had anyone betray you? If you do, then you know how it feels upsetting to place your trust in someone, to invest time, energy and resources into someone’s life, only to see the person turn against you and your values.
This is the feeling behind the passage. It is easy to look at Phinehas and see his bravery. But more important than his bravery was his loyalty (Numbers 25:6-13).
At first glance, it may bother people that God sent a plague (Numbers 25:9) and that He approved of Phinehas’ violent behavior (Numbers 25:12-13). But realize that these violent actions happened as a result of disloyalty to God and His instruction.
God told His people the Israelites not to have sexual relations with people who worshiped other gods, precisely because this intimate relationship would be the influence that causes the Israelites to worship other gods (Numbers 25:1-4). The Israelites, by worshiping other gods, would be disloyal to God.
God sent a plague to execute the leaders not just to satisfy His wrath (Numbers 25:4), although that is how it appears to the people. The reason is because God is jealous FOR His people. This is the reason that He exacts vengeance on the Midianites (Numbers 25:16-18). God is jealous of anyone who is disloyal to Himself and His people.God knows that not everyone followed the influence of other nations. But He has to show His people first that He is loyal to them. God has to stop the disloyal group of people whom He loves so that the other people whom He loves – the ones who say that they are loyal to Him are vindicated.
This is the reason for the plague. God has to prove that He can provide better than other “so called” gods. If the disloyal children teach the other children of God that God is not worth it, but that someone else is, it will undermine the entire trust relationship. The faithful will feel betrayed by the unfaithful, but they will also question the faithfulness of God. So God unleashes a plague to punish the unfaithful and disloyal, so that the faithful may trust that God will do what He says to protect them. Then to prove that God can provide for His people further still, God exacts vengeance on the Midianites – enemies who were a threat to the safety of God’s people.
So the people of God have a test of loyalty. But God too has a test of loyalty. Will He protect His people? Will He keep us loyal to Him? Will He provide better than the false gods around me who others say are better?