Sun, Nov 23, 2008

ZEAL FOR THE LORD! NUMBERS 25:1-13

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
ZEAL FOR THE LORD!
NUMBERS 25:1-13

            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Numbers chapter 25 as we look at a man who had a ZEAL FOR THE LORD! Now, before we get to our text this morning, let me lay down some background information that is important for our understanding of what is taking place here in Numbers chapter 25.

            Beginning in Numbers chapter 22 we see the children of Israel camped in the plains of Moab, on the east side of the Jordan River, preparing to enter into the Promise Land. Forty years have passed by since the exodus and that generation who refused to walk by faith and enter into the Promise Land has died off and the next generation is ready to enter in.  As they look across the Jordan River, into the land of Canaan, there is the city of Jericho. This was a fortified city and it will be the first enemy they will have to face in the Promise Land!

            As they are camped in the plains of Moab, Balak, the king of Moab is very fearful of the children of Israel. They heard of the conquests that they have made, especially against the Amorites. You see, Sihon, the king of the Amorites had defeated Moab and taken some of their land. Now the children of Israel have defeated Sihon and the Amorites. Thus, if Moab couldn’t defeat Sihon and the Amorites, they in no way could defeat the children of Israel!

            Thus, Balak, realizing that his army couldn’t defeat the children of Israel, they didn’t stand a chance against them, comes up with another plan! He sends for Balaam, who lived in Pethor, over 300 miles away from Moab, in Mesopotamia, along the Euphrates River. Why was Balaam summoned? Because he was a soothsayer and he was well known for bringing blessings and curses upon people and nations. And, of course, Balak wants him to curse the children of Israel!

            As the entourage arrived at Pethor from Moab they present Balaam gifts, money for his service, for his cursing of the children of Israel. But God tells him not to go and he sends this entourage away, back to Moab but he does leave the door open for them to return, with the idea of bringing more money and maybe he would go with them.

            And that is exactly what they do and as they return Balaam asks them to stay the night to see if God would change His mind. Folks, God does not change His mind! The perfect will of God for Balaam was that he stayed home but he pushed and pushed and thus, the permissive will of God was that he could go but he could only speak the words that God placed upon his heart. And God was not pleased with Balaam for his actions. In fact, God sent the Angel of the Lord or the pre-incarnate Christ, an Old Testament appearance of Jesus Christ to stand in the way with a drawn sword to strike him dead.

            Balaam refused to listen to God but Balaam’s donkey did!  He saw this angel and refused to go any further and finally sat down. And Balaam was so mad with his donkey that he wanted to kill him! Then, all of a sudden the donkey started to talk to Balaam and Balaam is losing this argument. You know it is not good when you are losing an argument with a donkey! His donkey basically tells him that if he didn’t stop, then Balaam would be dead!

            The Lord does allow Balaam to go and he finally meets Balak, the king of Moab and prior to any words spoken, any curses spoken against Israel, some pagan sacrifices are made by Balaam. You see, Balaam was not a prophet of God, he was a pagan prophet who God did speak through and as strange as that may sound to you, we do see this in the Old Testament. Remember how God spoke to Abimelech the king of Gerar in Genesis chapter 20, a pagan king. So this is not something that never took place before!

            So Balak takes Balaam up on a high mountain to curse Israel. And as he is looking down upon the camp of Israel he was seeing them set up in the shape of a cross and in the middle of that cross was the Shekinah glory, the glory of God!  And from this vantage point he speaks forth his first oracle against Israel, which turned out to be a blessing and not a curse!

            Obviously Balak is not happy, he didn’t hire Balaam to bless Israel but to curse Israel. They were already blessed! But he gives him another chance and takes him to another mountain looking down upon the camp of Israel once again.  In his second oracle against Israel, he blesses them again and once again Balak is not happy! He is so mad that he tells Balaam that if he can’t curse Israel then don’t say anything at all!

            But Balak is still hopeful and takes Balaam to another mountain looking down upon the camp of Israel to try one more time for a curse upon them. This also did not go well for Balak, for Balaam once again blesses Israel. And for Balaam, there is one, two and three strikes and you are out. Balak tells him to go home and he is not going to get paid for his services since he has blessed the children of Israel instead of cursing them!

            But Balaam can’t go without one more oracle, his fourth and he not only blesses Israel, but he speaks of the coming Messiah and how He will rule the nations, especially those surrounding Israel! And in Numbers 24:25, as this chapter concludes, we are told, So Balaam rose and departed and returned to his place; Balak also went his way.  But that is not the end of the story as you may think.  Yes, Balaam could not curse Israel but he was going to give to Balak some advice on how Israel can bring a curse upon themselves!

            In Numbers 25:1-3 we are told of what transpired next, Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel.  Now I do realize that it does not say here that Balaam gave this advice to Balak but he did. You see, he did want to get paid and I believe Balak was more than happy to pay him after he received this advice from him.

            In Numbers 31:16 we see that he did give this advice to Balak as we are told, Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. You see, it was the counsel of Balaam that brought Israel to the place where God cursed them. In fact, Jesus even picks up on this in Revelation 2:14 in his letter to the church of Pergamos. He wrote, But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.

            You see, Balaam told Balak, “Look, I can’t curse these people, the God of Israel won’t let me. But we can get them to bring the curse of God upon them!” How were they going to do that, how was this going to be accomplished? By having the Moabite and Midianite women come into their camp and seduce the men of Israel to sin!

            As these women seduced the men of Israel, had sex with them, they got them to worship their gods!  How can that be? Because the worship of these gods many times revolved around sexual immorality, sexual sin and these men fell prey to it hook, line and sinker! In fact, the Scriptures tell us that they had joined themselves, linked themselves to Baal of Peor! By their actions they linked themselves to these gods. What Balaam couldn’t do, the children of Israel did to themselves!

            W. Seaton wrote, “In Java is a valley which is called the Valley of Poison. It is an object of veritable terror to the natives. In this renowned valley the soil is said to be covered with skeletons and carcasses of tigers, of goats, and of stags, of birds, and even with human bones; for asphyxia or suffocation, it seems, strikes all living things which venture into this desolate place. It illustrates the valley of sensuality, the most horrible creation of social life. Few men who enter into its depths survive long; for it is strewn with dead reputations and the mangled remains of creatures who were once happy.”

            You see, the children of Israel were to be joined to God, but they had cut themselves off from God and joined themselves to Baal of Peor! In fact, the same is true for us as Christians, that we are not to join ourselves to anyone or anything but the Lord. Paul tells us in I Corinthians 6:15-20, Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For ‘the two,’ He says, ‘shall become one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.  The idea here is that we are to be joined to the Lord and not let the lust of the flesh, sexual sin, sensual pleasure cause us to be joined to someone or something else!

            That is where we will pick up our study this morning as the children of Israel have joined themselves to Baal of Peor and God is angry with them. Let’s begin reading in Numbers chapter 25, starting in verse 4 and see what the Lord has for us as we are to beZEALOUS FOR THE LORD!

NUMBERS 25:4-13

            In these verses I see four points emerge that I would like to focus on this morning. They are: THE ZEAL FOR GOD IS SOUND-MINDED – NUMBERS 25:4-5. Then: THE ZEAL FOR GOD PRODUCES ACTION – NUMBERS 25:6-9. We then will look at: THE ZEAL FOR GOD PRODUCES BLESSINGS – NUMBERS 25:10-11. And lastly we will look at: THE ZEAL FOR GOD BLESSES THE GIVER – NUMBERS 25:12-13.  Thus, with the remainder of our time this morning we will be looking at these four areas and see what we can glean from them and apply them to our lives!

1.  THE ZEAL FOR GOD IS SOUND-MINDED – NUMBERS 25:4-5

            Folks, there are many people who are zealous, passionate, enthusiastic about God but if it is not based in truth, then it is worthless! The zeal for God is sound-minded. It must be sound-minded. Here we see God instruct the judges of Israel to kill all the leaders who have joined themselves to Baal of Peor.

            That may seem harsh but these men were in leadership positions, people looked up to them, they were to be guided by them and now they were leading people away from God! You see, with authority comes accountability.  Jesus put it like this in Luke 12:48, But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.  Also, James reminds us and warns us in James 3:1, My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.  In other words, God holds leaders, teachers, pastors to a higher standard because they are representing Him before the people!

            Not only were they to be killed for their sin, for their actions, but also their bodies were to hang for all to see as a reminder of the consequences of sin. It does bring forth death. Now, keep in mind that these judges did not just do this on their own but God instructed them in what they were to do regarding this sin that was brought into the camp of Israel!

            Too often Christians act as a loose cannon firing all over the place. They get something in their mind and they are like a hurricane, destroying everything in their path. That is not what we are to do. Godly zeal is based in truth; it is based in God’s Word and not apart from it.  Thus, it truly is God’s will in God’s own way and not ours!

Paul, in Romans 10:2 tells us, For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  The Amplified Bible puts this verse like this, I bear them witness that they have a [certain] zeal and enthusiasm for God, but it is not enlightened and according to [correct and vital] knowledge.  Again, many Christians are like this, a real zeal but not based in the truths of God found in the Word of God.  We tend to have a zeal for this cause or that cause. We tend to have a zeal for God regarding issues that may be personal and may be what God is showing you for your life but we make them into a law for everyone to keep and we fight to the death for this cause and that cause and that truly is a zeal without knowledge!  God wants our zeal to be based in His truth and done His way!

We see this even today as religious people; people involved in cults have a zeal for God without knowledge. And this zeal for God is seen as they try to work their way into heaven by doing this and doing that, but you will never enter in by works, only by faith! Our knowledge comes as the Word of God, illuminated by the Spirit of God enables us to walk in holiness before God. You see, as sincere and devoted as people are to their faith, outside of Christ it is meaningless, you can't do anything that He will accept apart from Him. You see, I can be very sincere and show my devotion to what I believe by driving my car across a bridge, even though the sign says "BRIDGE OUT!" And yet, all that sincerity and devotion will leave me crashing upon the rocks below, it won't save me and the same is true for those that reject Jesus and try to enter in another way!

So we see here that these judges’ actions in the camp of Israel were based upon the truths of God. Thus, THE ZEAL FOR GOD IS SOUND-MINDED!

2.  THE ZEAL FOR GOD PRODUCES ACTION – NUMBERS 25:6-9

            It is one thing to know the truths of God, but if you don’t do anything with it, if it does not produce any action in your life, then it is useless. In these verses, Moses and the children of Israel are weeping, mourning over the sin that is in the camp. They had a real brokenness over their sin and a heart for God.

            As they are broken before God, here comes a Jewish man with a Midianite woman, walking right past them, these mourning people and he goes into his tent to have sex with this woman, joining himself to Baal of Peor! The very thing that displeased God and saw the leaders in Israel who had joined themselves to these gods put to death, he is doing. Think of the pride, the arrogance of this man. It is a kind of “in your face God” action on his part!  He is defying God by his actions and he doesn’t really care!

            And here is Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the high priest and the grandson of Aaron, who has died.  And Phinehas knows what God desires, he knows how angry the Lord was with this sin and he takes a stand against it! He gets up, grabs his javelin, and he goes into the tent of this man and probably as they are involved in this sexual immorality, he thrusts them both through, killing them both. Like I said on Thursday, kind of killing two birds with one stone!

            Phinehas took a stand for God; his zeal produced action on his part and his action stopped the plague that the Lord brought upon the people. But their sin caused 24,000 people to die, die in their sin!  You see, Phinehas was zealous for the Lord and he brought the atonement of God to the people so more would not die!

            Are you zealous for the Lord? Are you bringing the atonement of God that is found in Jesus to the people? You see, one man made a difference here. Thus, one man or one woman can make the difference today. But you need to be zealous for God and then take that to the people!

            Several years ago I was watching a Chicago White Sox baseball game and I actual saw this happen. I couldn’t believe it at first, I couldn’t believe my eyes, but it did happen. Let me share with you the story for it shows how zealous a person can be. Max Lucado wrote in his book, In The Eye Of The Storm:

Steve Lyons will be remembered as the player who dropped his pants.

He could be remembered as an outstanding infielder. As the player who played every position for the Chicago White Sox. As the guy who always dove into first base. As a favorite of the fans who high fived the guy who caught the foul ball in the bleachers. He could be remembered as an above-average player who made it with an average ability.

But he won’t. He’ll be remembered as the player who dropped his pants on July 16, 1990.

The White Sox were playing the Tigers in Detroit. Lyons bunted and raced down the first-base line. He knew it was going to be tight, so he dove at the bag. Safe! The Tiger’s pitcher disagreed. He and the umpire got into a shouting match, and Lyons stepped in to voice his opinion.  Absorbed in the game and the debate, Lyons felt dirt trickling down the inside of his pants. Without missing a beat he dropped his britches, wiped away the dirt, and, uh oh, twenty thousand jaws hit the bleachers’ floor.

And, as you can imagine, the jokes began. Women behind the White Sox dugout waved dollar bills when he came onto the field. “No one,” wrote one columnist “had ever dropped his drawers on the field. Not Wally Moon. Not Blue Moon Odom. Not even Heinie Manush.” Within twenty-four hours of the “exposure,” he received more exposure than he’d gotten his entire career; seven live television and approximately twenty radio interviews.

“We’ve got this pitcher, Melido Perex, who earlier this month pitched a no-hitter,” Lyons stated, “and I’ll guarantee you he didn’t do two live television shots afterwards. I pull my pants down, and I do seven. Something’s pretty skewed toward the zany in this game.”

Fortunately, for Steve, he was wearing sliding pants under his baseball pants. Otherwise the game would be rated “R” instead of “PG-13.”

Now, I don’t know Steve Lyons. I’m not a White Sox fan. Nor am I normally appreciative of men who drop their pants in public. But I think Steve Lyons deserves a salute.

I think anybody who dives into first base deserves a salute. How many guys do you see roaring down the baseline of life more concerned about getting a job done than they are about saving their necks? How often do you see people diving headfirst into anything?

Too seldom, right? But when we do. When we see a gutsy human throwing caution to the wind and taking a few risks. Ah, now that’s a person worthy of a pat on the back. So here’s to all the Steve Lyons in the world.

       - Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm, pp. 247-248

            If I remember right, I believe the White Sox got their pants blown off that game! No, but when you look at what Steve Lyons did, not forgetting that he was standing in the middle of a baseball game on television and dropped his pants to remove some of the dirt that got in them, but his zeal to make it safely to first base. I wonder how many Christians have that same kind of zeal for the Lord!

            Are you willing to share your faith? Are you willing to stand up for righteousness? Are you willing to do what God is calling you to do? You see, the world is getting darker and if we want to blend in, we must cover our light and in doing so, we are not being zealous for God but apathetic. When you stand up for righteousness, understand that the world won’t pat you on the back but most likely stab you in the back!  But what are you going to do? And if you don’t care, if you are apathetic, the nice thing about apathy is that you don’t have to exert yourself to show you are sincere about it! How many of you feel that way, you just don’t care?

When Dwight L. Moody was in London during one of his famous evangelistic tours, several British clergymen visited him. They wanted to know how and why this poorly educated American was so effective in winning throngs of people to Christ. Moody took the three men to the window of his hotel room and asked each in turn what he saw. One by one, the men described the people in the park below. Then Moody looked out the window with tears rolling down his cheeks. “What do you see, Mr. Moody?” asked one of the men.

“I see countless thousands of souls that will one day spend eternity in hell if they do not find the Savior.”

Obviously, D. L. Moody saw people differently than the average observer does. And because he saw eternal souls where others saw only people strolling in a park, Moody approached life with a different agenda.

- Today in the Word, February 1, 1997, p. 6

            You see, when you know the God you serve. When you believe His Word. You then will step out in faith, you will see the world differently, you will have a ZEAL FOR GOD THAT PRODUCES ACTION!

3.  THE ZEAL FOR GOD PRODUCES BLESSINGS – NUMBERS 25:10-11

            Now we touched on this a little as we looked at the second point. But the zeal for God does produce blessings in people’s lives. Here we see the wrath of God turned back, the plague was stopped because one man interceded for the people, his zeal for God brought blessings to the people!

            The point is this. We are told here in Numbers that Phinehas was zealous with My zeal among them. In other words, Phinehas was passionate about the things that God was passionate about and thus; he was a man after God’s own heart!  Listen to this story and see how there are many ways we can bring blessings to people. We are told:

I remember reading a story not long ago about the "elevated" in Chicago--a train that when it comes into the downtown; it's on a high track. A young man was riding that train day after day as a commuter. And as the train slowed up for the station where he got off, he could look through an open curtain into a room of a building and see a woman lying in a bed.

She was there day after day, for a long time, obviously quite ill. He began to get interested in her since he saw her every day. Finally he determined to find out her name. He discovered her address, and he wrote her a card, assuring her that he was praying for her recovery. He signed it: "The young man on the elevated."

A few weeks later, he pulled into the station, and he looked through that window and the bed was empty. Instead there was a great huge sign: GOD BLESS YOU, MY FRIEND ON THE ELEVATED!

- William Hinson, "A Breath of Fresh Air"

            As Phinehas was zealous for the Lord, it seems like the windows of heaven were opened up and brought forth blessing upon the children of Israel. We are told that the Lord said that Phinehas, by his actions, he has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel. He brought them the atonement of God. Now, the problem as one writer wrote: “The core problem is not that we are too passionate about bad things, but that we are not passionate enough about good things.”  What about this, focusing on this instead of nothing or not doing anything, “I have but one passion; it is He, He only!” What a great way to look at things!

            Yes, these blessings affect others and shouldn’t that be a passion of ours? Of course it should. That our zeal for God would bless others. Imagine how blessed our homes, our families, our cities, our states, our nation, this world would be if we would take a stand for God. One write put it like this:

            Zuizendorf said to a Moravian brother at Herrnhut, “Can you go as a missionary to Greenland?” “Yes.” “Can you go tomorrow?” “If the cobbler has finished my shoes I can go tomorrow.” That was a quick, willing hearted response.

            Wesley said: “If I had three hundred men who feared nothing but God, hated nothing but sin, and were determined to know nothing among men but Jesus Christ and him crucified, I would set the world on fire.” “Send us men,” Said a heathen convert, “with hot hearts.”

- J. H. Bomberger

            Paul, in Philippians 2:1-4 put it like this, Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others May we have that kind of heart for God and see the blessings He will pour out because a ZEAL FOR GOD PRODUCES BLESSINGS!

4.  THE ZEAL FOR GOD BLESSES THE GIVER – NUMBERS 25:12-13

            Lastly, the zeal for God does bless the giver; you can’t help but be blessed by God as you stand up for Him. For Phinehas, God promised him the blessing that he would be the descendant of Aaron through which the priesthood was to be passed down.  That just makes sense since he was the one who was zealous for God and brought atonement to the people of God!

            We need to be looking for those blessings of God that He is giving to us. We sometimes are so busy we miss out on what God has done, the blessings He has for us.  It is as this story illustrates for us. We are told:

As a minister was addressing a group of men, he took a large piece of paper and made a black dot in the center of it with a marking pen. Then he held the paper up before the group and asked them what they saw. One person quickly replied, “I see a black mark.” “Right,” the preacher replied. “What else do you see?” Complete silence prevailed. “Don’t you see anything other than the dot?” he asked. A chorus of no’s came from the audience. “I’m really surprised,” the speaker commented. “You have completely overlooked the most important thing of all—the sheet of paper.” Then he made the application. He said that in life we are often distracted by small, dot-like disappointments or painful experiences, and we are prone to forget the innumerable blessings we receive from the hand of the Lord. But like the sheet of paper, the good things are far more important than the adversities that monopolize our attention.

This reminds me of a bit of verse which, though I admit is somewhat trite, does express good practical advice. Someone has written: “As you travel down life’s pathway, may this ever be your goal: “Keep your eye upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole!”

Yes, rather than concentrating on the trials of life, we should fix our attention upon is blessings. Let us say with the psalmist, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits” (Psalm 68:19). - R. W. D.

- Our Daily Bread, March 10

            You see, God will honor those who honor Him. Phinehas honored God by his actions and because of that God not only blessed the people, but He blessed Phinehas.  How about you? Are the things you are doing bringing honor to God?  They should. Now I don’t want you to think of this in a legalistic way, this has nothing to do with our salvation, but our relationship with God. We should desire to honor God but you don’t have to.  But the spiritual principle is that if you don’t, you will miss out on the blessings that he has for you because you have placed yourself in a spot where the blessings are not being poured out, outside of His will!

            Listen to what Paul said in Ephesians 1:3-14 regarding the blessings of God upon our lives. He wrote, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth — in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.  Do you see the key? It is IN Christ, not apart from Him our outside of Him but as we are IN Christ the blessings will flow!

            It is as one write put it, “The English novelist, J. B. Priestly was once asked why it was that several gifted writers who were young with him had not matured in their arts as he had.  His answer was this: ‘Gentlemen, the difference between us was not in ability, but in the fact that they merely toyed with the fascinating idea of writing, I cared like blazes! It is this caring like the blazes that counts.’”  Do you care like the blazes?

            As I close this morning I pray that you have a zeal for God, a real passion to honor him and to do the things that He desires you to do.  For, as we have seen, A ZEAL FOR GOD IS SOUND-MINDED. A ZEAL FOR GOD PRODUCES ACTION. A ZEAL FOR GOD PRODUCES BLESSINGS. And A ZEAL FOR GOD BLESSES THE GIVER.  May our zeal be based in the Lord and His Word as we bring honor and glory to Him. It is as Wesley said: “If I had three hundred men who feared nothing but God, hated nothing but sin, and were determined to know nothing among men but Jesus Christ and him crucified, I would set the world on fire.” May we be those men and women!

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