CHARACTERS-1 - The Righteousness of Phinehas
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GREAT BIBLE CHARACTERS
The Psalmist said, "Zeal for your house has eaten me up." And
while those words, in Psalm 69:9, are no doubt applied to Jesus as he
cleansed the Temple, it would also apply, in practicality, to one great man
in the Old Testament who was fed up with sin and took righteous action.
His name is Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron and high priest will
ultimately be high priest to God.
We welcome you today to our study of great Bible characters.
The Scripture records in Romans 15:4,"The things that were written
aforetime were written for our learning, that we, through patience and
comfort of the Scriptures, might find hope." Of the lessons in the Old
Testament that can encourage, that can instruct, that can give us hope and
comfort, many of those can be found in the lives of godly men and women
who stand as examples.
As we think today about the righteousness and the zeal of
Phinehas, let's take just a moment to get a little background on who this
In Exodus 6:25, we note that he is the grandson of Aaron, who was
Moses' spokesperson and high priest of God. The Bible records that he
was one of the chief officers of the Korahites, who also were of the priestly
order of the tribe of Levi. Later he became high priest after Eleazar died.
Phinehas is most remembered, his greatness, remembered for there was a
plague going on in Israel and his zeal in killing an ungodly man and woman
committing adultery is what stopped that plague, Numbers 25:8. In fact, this
was such a righteous action, a such a very important action, that this action
is actually commemorated in Psalm 106:28-30.This service, that he
performed to God in fulfilling that righteous act, secured the succession of
the priesthood to his house for future generations, Numbers 25:11-13.
I want us to take just a moment and notice the context of Numbers
25:1.The Scripture records, "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. Then the Lord said to Moses, "Take all
the leaders of the people and hang the offenders before the Lord, out in the
sun that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel." So Moses
said to the judges of Israel, "Every one of you kill his men who were joined
to Baal of Peor." And indeed, one of the children of Israel came and
presented to his brethren a Midianite woman in the sight of Moses, in the
sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping at
the door of the tabernacle of meeting.
Now when Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the high
priest, saw it, he rose from among the congregation took a javelin in his
hand; and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and thrust the both
of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body. So
the plague was stopped among the children of Israel. And those who died
in the plague were 24, 000."
You know, when you think about this very important and dramatic
event that is going on here, the background is that God had commanded
his people, when they came out of the Exodus wandering, when they
became that chosen special people, special people, God clearly
commanded them, ‘I don't want you to marry, I don't want you to have
interaction with, don't take them as your friend- you don't have anything to
do with these heathen, idolatrous, ungodly nations.’ Well, in spite of that
command, Israel had become intermingled with the people of Baal of Peor,
even to the point that they had taken some of the heathens as their wives
and were actually cut. They're up on the mountaintop. There they are with
their wives up on the mountaintop. They're actually worshiping, involved in
this horrible idolatrous action. This was clearly done in a direct violation of
God's commands and rebellion to his will. Now, as result of this, there was
a very scary, serious, and stiff, penalty. God told Moses, "I want you to
gather all the leaders. I want you to gather all the officers. I want you to
hang them in the sunlight for all Israel to see, as an example." While the
people are taking care of this, there is one man who is so brazen, has so
much showmanship in what he's doing- that not only is he out there
worshiping, and committing this harlotry, and adultery-he has the
brazenness to bring this woman there in front of Moses and the camp, and
take her into his tent. He's just doing it out in front of everybody, no respect
for God or His will in doing this.
Now, this is where Phinehas enters the scene. There is a death
going on. The death of 24,000 occurs. What stopped this horrible plague
that was going on? It was Phinehas, a righteous man of God. He knew that
Zimri had taken this woman into his tent to commit lewdness and idolatry
with her. He grabbed the spear, went to the man's tent drove it through him
and her together.
Friend, it was this righteous act, his zeal for God and his house
was to the top. He couldn't take it anymore and so it was this righteous act
that stopped that plague. In fact, in Psalm 106:31, it is said of God, "And
that it was accounted to him for righteousness. To all generations
Because of what he did, God honored him and his house with
having the priesthood among them forever. Are we to take up swords and
spears today? That's not the idea. Here's a man who is serious about God.
Here's a man who is serious about sin, about righteousness, and about
keeping the camp in the house of God and no doubt that tabernacle within
pure. He saw God as holy and righteous as he should be. He went to
extreme lengths in making sure this man's sin was dealt with in an
Now as you think about Phinehas, and as we say to ourselves,
"okay, great story, great lesson, great man of courage, righteousness, and
zeal. How does this apply to us today?
Let's make a practical application from the life of Phinehas for
ourselves, in the church, and the Kingdom of the Lord today.
What do these lessons teach us? Friend, we first learn a very
practical lesson from God's dealings with Israel in this context. It is this:
God expects His people to obey him. God had clearly told them as they left
Exodus, as they entered the Canaan land, God had clearly told them, "don't
mingle with these people, don't marry them, don't take their wives, don't
have children with them, they're going to be a thorn in your flesh, don't
have anything to do with them. They didn't listen and it was a thorn in their
Friend, God expected His people to obey Him now as we make
practical application from that lesson. Let's realize just very practically, very
simply, as God's people today, He expects us to obey Him. Jesus said, "If
you love me, keep my commandments," John 14:15. Jesus clearly said, in
Matthew 7, when some were saying, "have we not done this in your name
and this in your name and done many good works in your name." Jesus
said some of you, "I'm going to say I didn't know you. Why? "It's not
everybody that looks up into heaven and says, 'Lord, Lord', that's going
there, but he who does the will of my father in heaven."
Jesus said to the pious Pharisees and scribes who would take
themselves and say yes we're the religious elite. Jesus said, "Why do you
call me Lord Lord, and don't even do the things which I say." You can't call
Christ, Lord, the point is, if you're not willing to follow and obey him.
Revelation 22:11-14 clearly teaches us that blessed are those who keep
His commandments. Yes, we must obey God. We absolutely must keep
Are we then going to look up to heaven and beat our breast and say
I've earned salvation? No! We're still saved by the grace of God; don't get
me wrong, Ephesians 2:8-9. But don't miss this either: "Jesus is the author
of eternal salvation to all who obey him."
Friend, when the Bible tells us, gives us command, for example,
when the Bible says we're to worship God in spirit and in truth, I can't avoid
that command and be right with God. I can't look the other way. I've got to
worship God with all my heart and soul, mind, and strength, and then I
also must worship God according to truth, which is this book, John 17:17.
I've got to worship in the manner that God tells me to. I don't want to add to
or take away things that are in the Bible and so I must do exactly what God
teach as it relates to things like the plan of salvation.
This is such a practical lesson. Think about this: When Christ tells
me, and tells you, commands us to do something to be saved, can I fail to
do that and still be saved? For example, Jesus said in John 8:24, "Unless
you believe that I'm He, you'll surely die in your sin."
Let's say I'm not going to believe in Jesus, but I want to go to
heaven. Is that going to work? Of course not. When Jesus says, "Unless
you repent, you will all likewise perish", can I keep living in sin and not
repent and think I'm going to go to heaven? Well, no, I can't do that.
What about when Jesus says to be baptized for the remission of
sins and people don't do that? "He that believes and is baptized will be
saved", Mark 16:16. "Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins."
People sometimes say, ‘well I might have been baptized but it wasn't for
the remission of sins.’ Wait a minute now; if Jesus commanded that and I
don't keep that command, can I be right with God?
A second very practical lesson that we learn is this: God has always
wanted his people to be separated from the world and from sin. God wants
us to draw a line. He wants us to not become intermingled with, to remain
on the righteous side, to try to do right. Does that mean we're not going to
try to reach the world, live in the world? That's not the idea; but I don't want
to take on their values, their morals, their gods, and their way of life.
Rather, we want to be God's own special people.2 Corinthians 6:17-18,
"Come out from among them and be ye separate says the Lord
I will be your God you shall be my people." That's the mentality of a
Christian. I want to come out of the world. I want to be separated to God. I
don't want to live like, think like, and act like, the world.
Now, why is it we've got to come out of the world? Here's why, "All
that is in the world, lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, the pride of life, it's not
of the father but of the evil one and the world and the lust of it, one day
going to perish", 1 John 2:15-17. Why is it that we as Christians need to be
separated from the world? Here's why: the Bible says in James 4:4,
"Adulterers and adulteresses do you not know that friendship with the world
is enmity with God whoever therefore desires be a friend of the world
makes himself God's enemy."
You cannot serve God and worldly riches, Matthew 6:24.
Then think about this: if I become unequally yoked together with
unbelievers, 2 Corinthians 6:14-15, what kind of problem does that
present? Well, you think about it as it were maybe a man's working in the
field. He's got a plow hooked up to two mules and one of those mules is
really good and one is really not very good. What's going to happen to the
good mule? He's going to do all the pulling. He's going to do all the work.
He's going to drag the other one part of the way. What if a Christian is
intermingled with a non-Christian? He's going to end up doing a lot of that.
He's going to end up having to pull that person. It's not going to be very
good yoke. It's going to be very unequal. The principle is: your morals are
not their morals. Your way of life is not their way of life. Your God is often
not their God. Why would you want to join yourself to someone who doesn't
have the same values that God and Christ want us to have?
Thirdly, as we think about practical lessons, here's a very valuable
one. Friend, in the Bible God always means what He says. Now, we ought
not to think that to be hard but sometimes it is hard for people to
understand when God told the people, I don't want you to intermingle-did
He really mean it?
When God told the people: I don't want you to go up on the
mountain top and worship their gods and to not be involved in idolatry and
adultery did God really mean what He said?
Friend, you bet He did. God always means what He says.
Another couple of examples we might give you: think for yourself
about Nadab and Abihu. They offered a sacrifice that was unauthorized to
God, that God had not commanded it, Leviticus 10:1-2, and fire rained
down from heaven. They died in the presence of the Lord. Did God really
mean it when He said only do what I say? Absolutely!
Think about in the New Testament, Ananias and Sapphira, they lied
to the Holy Spirit. They tried to keep back some of the money of
themselves. They both dropped dead on the spot, because God really
means what He says. When God teaches us, from the Scripture, what He
wants, I need to take Him at His word. When God says sin is sin and that it
will separate us from Him, friend, I need to believe that. When God says
the wages of sin is death, I need to realize, if I get caught up in sin, I'm
going to face those consequences. When God tells us not to cheat, or to
lie, or to steal, or whatever practical application we may make, God means
what He says.
There will be blessings if we do what He says. There will be
consequences if we don't do what our God says.
Which leads us to our next point: As always, when we don't obey
God, there will always be harsh consequences, hard consequences to
follow. Is that because God's a mean and angry God? No, but friend, God
tells us the best way to live. John 10:10, Jesus said, "I came that you may
have life, and that you may have it more abundantly."
If I follow Christ, stay on the right path, and do His will, I've got the
best life possible.
What if I get off that path? I've chosen to live the life that's not the
best, and, friend, there will be harsh consequences to that.
You remember the rebellion of Korah in the Old Testament. They
thought Moses had too much authority. They said give us a little authority
too. We're also Levites; in essence, we ought to have some priestly
authority. They rebelled against Moses; they rebelled against God; and the
ground opened up and swallowed people into it. Were there stiff
consequences when they rebelled against God? You bet!
What about today? Friend, there are more serious consequences
today than there ever was in the Old Testament. Hebrews 2:1-3 asked the
question, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" There
was a penalty under the old law. We face a stiffer penalty today, not in the
sense that God is going to open up the ground and we're going to be
swallowed in it -but friend, if people live in sin, listen carefully-God doesn't
want this to happen. We don't want this to happen. If people live in sin and
die in sin and they're in sin at the judgment of God, the blood of Christ is
not applied to their spirit. They have not walked in the light.
Friend, there is a place called hell. There is a place of eternal
torment. God wants all men to be saved. We want all men to be saved, but
rest assured there is a majority of people who are going down that wrong
path that leads to destruction.
I need to know there are consequences to my actions. I must be
aware of that.
Then, as a practical lesson, we mention this: As God's children, we
need to stand up for what's right. We need to stand up and oppose those
living in sin and trying to please God at the same time.
The very idea of standing up for what's right is something that we all
should believe in. Just imagine if you saw some travesty. Let's say you're
walking down the street and somebody steals an old lady's purse and just
starts really having his way with her, and is going totry to take all her
money. Would you stand up for that if at all possible? Would you stand up
for her and what's right? Well, sure you would! That's a travesty. That's
something people ought to stand up for.
What about when it comes to God's truth and souls and things that
are eternally important? Christians ought to stand up for what's right. Stand
up and oppose those who are living in sin and do something about it.
By that I mean this: we've got to contend earnestly for the faith. Are
we fighting today? You bet we are! What kind of fight? The sword of the
spirit, Ephesians 6:11 - 18. We're battling against the foes of darkness,
Ephesians 6:10-18. We're taking the word of God as our guide, as our
sword. We're doing battle against ungodliness and sin. How am I to do
that? Speak the truth in love, Ephesians 4:15. I'm to reach out the best way
possible to those who may be opposing what's right, to those who may be
living in sin, 1 Corinthians 5, among the people of God. If there are those
living in sin, there is an action just as zealous and just as righteous as what
In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul said disfellowship that ungodly man. Put
him out of your assembly. Don't have anything to do with him. Don't
associate with him. Don't even eat with him is the idea. I’m going to treat
him as an enemy. I'm going to admonish him as a brother. At the same
time you've got to draw a line and make sure that we don't allow sin to
continue for the saving of people’s souls,1 Corinthians 5:4-5.
Another very practical lesson is: we need the zeal and the courage
to stand up and speak out about morality.
Friend, as we think about having zeal, having courage, speaking out
about things that are morally wrong. You've got a heinous situation going
on here -a man living in brazen sin and rebellion to God. God said don't
marry him. He says. God, not only am I going to marry him, I will take her in
my tent right here in front of everybody and I don't care what you say.
How brazen was he? And yet we need the courage, just as Phinehas had,
to stand up and speak out about morality.
Let me mention a few things as it relates to the subject of marriage.
We need the courage to stand up and say what God says - one man, one
woman for life. The only reason for divorce is fornication and then it's not a
must. Genesis 2 verse 24, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and
mother, be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." How the
world needs to hear God's principles of morality there!
Then, as Jesus said in Matthew 19:9, the only scriptural reason for
divorce is 'except for fornication, sexual immorality.' Then and only then,
does the innocent party have the right, according to Jesus, to remarry.
We need to stand up and speak out about morality as it relates to
things that especially are relevant to us today- whether be gambling, which
is a horrible tax on the poor, whether it be moral issues like abortion, where
even Planned Parenthood, these days, as seen on video are doing these
heinous and ungodly things.
Where are Christians when those videos are seen? When the
evidence is there? When we're selling out baby parts after abortion?
Where's the outcry? Where's the zeal?
Stand up for morality on times like those. We also must take action
against those who are ungodly. Now by action, again, please don't
misunderstand our words, are we saying we're going to take up a javelin,
go looking? No! That's not the idea, of course not. We want to fight with the
sword of the spirit, Ephesians 6:17.We want to, in love, speak the truth.
Does that mean it might make it uncomfortable for some? Sure! Is it ever
comfortable to have sin pointed out and people turn the Bible and say,
we're encouraging you to stop living like this? Never comfortable, but listen
carefully, it's the right thing to do. In United States of America, we are still a
Christian majority. As a Christian majority, who believes in the Bible, when
will we rise up and with one voice say what God has said, put a stop to
some of this immorality and ungodliness by people who believe in the Bible
uniting together and letting God's voice and this one nation under God be
And then finally, we mention this, as we think about courage, as we
think about righteousness, as we think about zeal, friend, zeal and doing
the right thing is to be commended, not looked down on.
I wonder what some of the people in Phinehas' day thought. Can
you imagine the cries that went out when that happened? Can you imagine
the looks on people's faces? Some said he really shouldn't do that. He did
the right thing at that time. He was commended by God and, friend, when
people stand up and speak the truth, even if that's uncomfortable and
unpopular, we need to encourage and hold up their hands, We need to do
everything we can to support that in the desperate times we now live in
As we think about Phinehas, as we think about his righteousness,
zeal, and about his life, he stands as an example of a man who went to
great lengths to make sure that God, His truth, His kingdom, and He came
first in the choices Israel made. He had to make a hard decision, but it was
a right decision.
Friend, have you made the decision to follow God? If you've never
become a Christian, you can make the decision, today, to be filled with
God's righteousness and have the zeal to do right by obeying Christ.
Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments."
Have you heard the word? Do you really believe Jesus is the
Christ? Would you turn from sin and turn to the Lord? Would you make that
great confession, Acts 8:37-39? Would you be immersed in water for the
forgiveness of your sins?
Here's what Jesus said, "He that believes and is baptized will be
saved. He that does not believe shall be condemned."
If you've never become a Christian and obeyed the gospel, have the
courage and the zeal today. Regardless of the cost, obey Christ and live
with fervor for him every day.
Study Questions for:
“Great Bible Characters Lesson 1: Righteousness of Phinehas”
1. According to Romans 15:4, why were the things written?
2. What consumed him in Psalms 69:9?
3. What should we do if we love Jesus according to John 14:15?
4. According to Revelation 22:11-14, why should we obey God?
5. What saves us according to Ephesians 2:8-9?
6. What is truth according to John 17:17?
7. According to John 8:24, what will happen to us if we don’t believe?
8. According to 2 Corinthians 6:17-18, should we separate ourselves from the world?
9. Should we befriend the world according to James 4:4?
10. According to John 10:10, why did Jesus come?