Phinehas

Numbers records the story of Balak and Balaam. Balaam wanted the wages of unrighteousness. He was a prophet of the LORD but sold out his office for material gain. God would not allow Balaam to curse Israel, but Balak hired him to do so. Balaam was sent away without his reward.

Balaam could not curse God’s people, but he knew another way for Balak to have what he wanted. If Israel could be entrapped and led away from God, they would lose God’s favor and protection. If Balak could get Israelite men to commit sexual immorality with Moabite women and form alliances with Moab, then these men could be drawn away from the LORD. Balaam’s advice was sound and also evil. He would have succeeded if it had not been for one man.

The history behind Phinehas is recorded in Numbers 25. Israel’s men intermingled with the women of Moab. Israel also bowed down to Moabite gods and aroused the anger of the LORD. The LORD ordered that all the offenders be hanged out in the sun so that the anger of the LORD would turn away from Israel. An Israelite man presented his Midianite woman to his brethren in the sight of Moses and the congregation of Israel. These men were weeping over God’s judgment.

Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, saw this. He came out from the congregation, took a javelin, and pursued the man and his Midianite woman into the tent. There he thrust the spear through both the man and woman. A plague of judgment had broken out. It only stopped when Phinehas acted. 24,000 people had died by that point.

The LORD said that Phinehas turned back His wrath from Israel “because he was zealous with [the LORD’s] zeal among them.” He was zealous for his God (Numbers 25.13).

Psalm 106 recounts Phinehas’ history:

“Then Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stopped. And that was accounted to him for righteousness to all generations forevermore”

– Psalm 106.30-31

The operative concept taught in this man’s life is zeal. Phinehas was jealous for his God. Zeal or godly jealousy is a characteristic that can either be good or bad. It is more often bad in people. It all depends on what drives zeal in our lives. It’s good to be zealous in doing good, but it must be remembered that evil people are zealous in doing evil.

If a man or woman does not have zeal, as soon as the road gets tough, they will quit. Nothing difficult can be accomplished without zeal. Indifference and apathy produce nothing but laziness.

Sometimes you run into a very bright, gifted individual who can do much without much effort. But that person is superficial in the long run. There will come a time when everyone will recognize that they need to be more diligent. Not all diligence meets with success, but if a great work is accomplished, we are sure to know that zeal has been poured into it.

The best sermons require a lot of time, thought, prayer, study, and preparation. The greatest cures in medicine require great effort, expense, and research. Olympians monitor what they eat and practice self-discipline and great rigor in their exercise program in order to obtain a corruptible medal. If we are going to prove beneficial to others, godly zeal will be the impetus for it.

Phinehas saw how God was dishonored by this nameless man. He saw what it would do to the nation, and he avenged God’s cause with great zeal. His zeal for God elevated him above his countryman and solidified his eternal testimony in God’s Word. The actions still shock us even though we are told they were godly. Verse 31 says it is accounted to him for righteousness to all generations forevermore. What was accounted to him for righteousness? The fact that he ran his spear through both the man and the woman? Yes, but more importantly, the zeal and godly jealousy that motivated him to do so! But there’s more to it.

We know Phinehas was a righteous man because of the fruit of his zeal for his God. His zeal did not make him righteous, but it proved he was righteous. And it continues to prove that. It will to all generations forevermore.

Zeal for the Father’s house consumed our Lord Jesus (John 2.17). The zeal of the Corinthian church for Paul moved him to rejoice (2 Corinthians 7.7). And yet the Jewish people had a zeal for the true God, but it was not fortified with knowledge. It was misdirected and misinformed.

Jesus’ zeal moved him to steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem and then to His death. The early church had a zeal that compelled them to continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, fellowship, communion, and prayer. Let us continue steadfastly in prayer. Let us be steadfast, immovable, and always abound in the work of the Lord. Don’t fall from your own steadfastness and zeal. If you do, you’ll be led away with the error of the wicked.

Our Greatest Patriotic Duty

He saved them from the hand of him who hated them,
And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.
The waters covered their enemies;
There was not one of them left.
Then they believed His words;
They sang His praise.

Psalm 106.10–12

Psalm 103 declares the everlasting mercies of God. Everlasting mercy governs the character of man while glorifying the character of God. Either we acknowledge God’s mercy by showing gratitude, or we ignore God’s mercy and take it for granted.

This is true of individual people and nations. As the history of Israel is rehearsed in the Psalm 106, we are reminded of the fragile condition they were in. They camped by the Red Sea. Pharaoh came upon them with his army. There was no way for them to escape or defend themselves. From a human perspective, all hope was lost.

But God delivered them in a miraculous way. This is replayed throughout the Old Testament. The LORD kept Pharaoh and his army at bay with His presence, radiating as a pillar of fire. He made a way through the Red Sea and upon dry land for the Israelites to cross over. He allowed every Israelite to pass over safely, and then He swept the waters over the Egyptian army in judgment. How did this affect the nation of Israel? We see it in two collective responses: 1) Belief and 2) Gratitude.

  1. They believed the words of God. They acknowledged God’s power and faithfulness because they could not deny what He had done for them. It would have been inconceivable for them to think that they would ever disbelieve His words.
  2. They gratefully sang God’s praises. There is no way they could overlook what God had done.  Some say even today, “That was a Red Sea experience” to denote the great and miraculous deliverance of God.

But notice the phrase in Psalm 106.21: “They forgot God their Savior.” They were ungrateful. Ingratitude is one of the great and heinous sins of mankind. Scripture speaks about how terrible it is to be unthankful. Romans 1.21 says, “Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” The Old Testament speaks of Hezekiah’s response to a miracle he personally experienced: “Hezekiah did not repay according to the favor shown him, for his heart was lifted up; therefore wrath was looming over him and over Judah and Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 32.25).

There is nothing so great as a Red Sea experience. Yet the nation forgot God their Savior. We expect God’s consuming wrath to devour His people. We marvel at His patience toward them. Why has God not consumed our own nation?  Even as Moses interceded for Israel, believers in the United States intercede for their own country.

  1. Pray for the United States of America. God commands us to intercede for our country. We must pray for kings and presidents and all those in authority. So many people are willing to defend their understanding of freedom, but they fail to pray for their country. The greatest way to defend the Constitution and the United States of America is to pray for her. There is a lot of protesting and complaining, but what about intercession? We still enjoy great freedom and prosperity in America. It’s not that authorities deserve prayer; it is simply what we are commanded to pray. Pray for the preservation of freedom to worship the one true God. Pray for revival. Genuine revival is foundational in our country’s battle against injustice, racism, poverty, and immorality.
  2. Pray in earnest for the United States of America. As we approach the next big election, prayer and fasting are the most important spiritual weapons wielded. The battle is not ours but the LORD’s. God may relent from the disaster that He has planned to bring upon our nation. One man named Moses interceded for the entire nation, and God heard him. Therefore, we must pray.
  3. Pray for revival in the United States of America. God’s everlasting mercies are new every day. Great is His faithfulness. And great is the danger of neglecting Him as individuals and as a nation. The bondage of sin is very great. The deliverance from sin is a Red Sea Miracle. We will either gratefully acknowledge this or we don’t. It is a miracle far greater than water heaping up to form walls. It is a miracle purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. He is God our Savior. Will we forget Him?  “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?”  Thank the LORD for your personal deliverance. Pray for the deliverance of others in our nation. We may be closed up in our homes, but God’s Word is not bound. May He bring personal revival and power into all of our lives.

God promised Israel: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7.14). Who knows what God would do for our country if we would but humble ourselves as Christians, pray, seek His face, and turn for our wicked ways. I believe God is merciful. Do you? I will gratefully sing His praises in the wake of revival. Will you?

The Peril of Prosperity

There is a danger that we all face as Christians.  This danger is intensified when God tangibly displays His mercy in our lives.  The danger is that we might magnify the gift and forget the Giver.  As believers, there is great blessing in the gifts God gives us, but we must evaluate the real worth of such gifts.  The gift must draw us closer to the Giver.  We must magnify Ghannahod …make Him big.  The gift is a vehicle to do just that.

Hannah is an Old Testament example of just this (1 Samuel 1-2).  Hannah looked upon the gift of a son as an opportunity to magnify her God.  What can we learn from Hannah’s words recorded in 1 Samuel 2.1-10?

When we receive great gifts from God, it is because He is a great God.  There is none like Him (1 Samuel 2.2a-b).  There is no one as powerful as He is (2.2c).  There is no one who knows what He knows (3c).  There is no one who is just as He is (3d).  God is able to bring to bear a great reversal in our lives.  He gives great strength in our great weakness (4b).  The full are hungry (5a) and the hungry are fed (5b).  The barren woman has many children and the mother who has many children becomes feeble (5c-d).  The poor are made rich and the low are exalted (7-8).

God alone takes a life in judgment.  He kills but does not murder.  This is His sovereign prerogative (6).  He guards the feet of the saints or those set apart as His children (9).  But those who reject His King and Anointed One, the Lord Jesus Christ, are silent in eternal darkness.  By self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, or self-dependence, no man prevails.  Strength is found in Christ and in Him alone.  Don’t look at the gift but at the Giver.  Look to…

  1. God’s power and holiness brought to bear in the lives of those who trust in Him
  2. God’s wisdom and justice as comforts when inequity abounds
  3. God’s grace found in the benefits of prayer and His full revelation in the Scriptures

All benefits and blessings in this life point up the character of the God we claim to serve.  If these gifts from God become a means to an end, then we have practiced a very subtle form of idolatry.  We have vaunted up creation above the Creator.  If we do this as children of God, we may expect God to bring chastening instead of prosperity.

If you are like me, you’d rather have all of your needs met right away.  But it seems that we are inclined to stop trusting in God when this happens.  Prosperity is a place of peril for many in our country.  We fall into the delusion that our own hand has provided us with these things.

Our families must understand that suffering, difficult people and circumstances, and the crucible of a trial have the potential to be wonderful messengers declaring the glory of God.  Hannah’s great trial was a barren womb.  She pleaded for a child.  God gave her a baby boy.  She called him Samuel.  Samuel’s name means “asked of YHWH”.  When God grants her request, Hannah has the spiritual depth to magnify God and not the fact that she was no longer barren.

Who or what is magnified when God blesses you?  The answer to this question reveals how spiritual we truly are.

The Abundance of Everything

We certainly love God for who He is, but we also love God for what He gives.  It’s never advisable to think only in terms of the abstract in theology.  It may sound pious to say that we simply love God for who He is and not what He gives, but such piety will not stand in the face of Scripture.  We arPsalm 103.3e grateful daily for all of God’s benefits.  We serve Him with joy and gladness for the abundance of everything (Deuteronomy 28.47).

Who He Is

God is merciful, gracious, and steadfast.  The extension of God’s mercy teaches us that we deserve nothing but His wrath.  The extension of His grace indicates that He watches over us and delights in giving us good gifts we will never deserve.  His steadfastness helps us to realize that He will always be present and never neglect us.  The mercy, grace, and steadfastness of the LORD are realities which spur active service.

What He Gives

The response and worship of God’s children ought to be personal, committed, and continual.  David writes, “Bless the LORD, O my soul” (Psalm 103.1).  We owe a debt that we cannot possibly pay.  Even if we are struggling to make ends meet, we are better off.  The richest of men who know nothing of God’s gifts live is spiritual squalor.  This drives commitment to obey the LORD’s primary command:  Love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  He forgives, heals redeems, crowns, and satisfies.  Therefore we continually bless and praise Him.

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:

Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103.1-5

We are reluctant to bless the LORD because it doesn’t feel genuine.  The reason this is true is that we fail to remind ourselves of His character and all His daily benefits.  There is no greater joy for the Christian to be genuinely and continually committed to his God.  Be thankful for who He is and what He gives.

Explore the Book: Exodus (Pt 1)

Exodus is built around its three great actors:  Israel, Egypt, and God.

Israel

Exodus meant four things specifically for Israel:

  1. A new life was marked by the beginning of a new calendar (Exodus 12.2).
  2. The house of bondage gave way to new liberty by the powerful hand of God’s deliverance (Exodus 13.3).
  3. The Passover memorial and feast symbolized a new fellowship (Exodus 12.14).
  4. The deliverance of Israel from bondage marked a new assurance that God would indeed be there God (Exodus 6.7-8).

The Exodus under Moses parallels the redemption Christ brings to believers:

“Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5.7-8).

We, too, have new life, new liberty, new fellowship, and new assurance.

Egypt

Exodus meant three things specifically for Egypt:

  1. Their false idolatry was exposed (Exodus 12.12).  Baxter
  2. Resistance to God is futile (Exodus 9.16).
  3. Egypt parallels the world:
  • Its material wealth and power (Hebrews 11.26)
  • Its fleshly wisdom and false religion (Exodus 8.7)
  • Its ruler (Satan compared with Pharaoh)
  • Its principles of force, arrogance, ambition, and pleasure
  • Its persecution of the people of God (Deuteronomy 4.20)
  • Its overthrow by divine judgment (Exodus 12.29; 15.4-7; plagues, death of the firstborn, drowning of Pharaoh’s army)

God

Exodus provides a go-to manifestation of God’s power.  It will be an event that the Old Testament returns to again and again.

The Marvel of the Exodus Deliverance:

  1. A marvel of judgment (plagues, smiting of the firstborn, and the defeat of the Egyptian army)
  2. A marvel of grace (blood-marked dwellings are passed over and Israel is delivered)
  3. A marvel of might (God’s power to part the Red Sea)
  4. A marvel of guidance (demonstrated by the pillars of cloud and fire)
  5. A marvel of provision (manna and water)
  6. A marvel of faithfulness (God honors both the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants)
  7. A marvel of condescension (God meets with man in the Tabernacle; He will not forsake His people)

The Marvel of New Testament Redemption:

  1. Judgment – God has judged human sin at the cross of Jesus Christ and through the blood of His Son.
  2. Grace – We identify with Christ and escape punishment we deserve.  Then, we are given righteousness we do not deserve.
  3. Might – The resurrection of Christ is a manifestation of God’s supreme power over sin and death.
  4. Guidance – The Holy Spirit leads us in the way we should go.  There is no need for a physical pillar of light or fire.
  5. Provision – We have all the spiritual blessings in Christ.  He supplies our every need.
  6. Faithfulness – God keeps covenant with His people.  He will not leave or forsake us.
  7. Condescension – God makes His home in us through the Holy Spirit.  Thus, we are the temple of the living God.  This is simply amazing condescension.

These parallels provide an entrance for the Gospel.  Baxter draws three points of comparison and three points of contrast:

Comparison

  1. Israel was freed from the house of bondage, namely Egypt.  We, too, are freed from the bondage of sin.
  2. Israel celebrated their deliverance with the Passover lamb.  Jesus is the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world.
  3. Israel commemorated the Passover with a feast from that time forward.  Christ is our Passover and we too remember Him as such through the Lord’s Table.

Contrast

  1. Means:  The blood of animals was a mere shadow of the substance of Christ’s blood shed for us.
  2. Extent:  The liberation of Israel was limited to just them, but the liberation of the Gospel is for whosoever will come.
  3. Effects:  Israel was delivered from physical slavery in Egypt, but we are delivered from eternal slavery in Hell.

 

Explore the Book: Genesis (Pt 4)

The Seven Great Men of Genesis

  1. Abel – a man of spiritual desire.  This is a contrast to Cain, a man of earthly desire.  Cain was a tiller of the ground with earthward interests and holdings.  Abel was a keeper of sheep, a tent-dwelling pilgrim desiring something beyond.  Cain goes out from the presence of the Lord and busies himself with cities and with works in brass and iron.  Abel reaches for better things, seeking rest in God; suffering and dying in hope of the better resurrection (Hebrews 11.16).
  2. Enoch – a man who walked with God.  Behind the walk was the will.  Enoch’s will was God’s will.  Two cannot walk together except they be agreed (Amos 3.3).  Enoch agreed with God.  He made this choice to fellowship with God and walk with God.  Enoch went God’s way; God did not come Enoch’s way.  He was a dedicated man of spiritual choice.
  3. Noah – a man of spiritual renewal.  Noah’s story begins as a man of spiritual choice on the ground of the old world (Genesis 6).  He is separated from the old world in the ark and by the flood waters (Genesis 7).  He then goes forth into a new life in a new world (Genesis 8-9).
  4. Abraham – a man of faith.  He trusted in God’s guidance, believed in God’s promises, received God’s assurances, inherited God’s blessing, underwent difficult testing, and was accounted righteous through faith as a friend of God.
  5. Isaac – a man of sonship.  Isaac is a son of special promise, special birth, special preciousness, the only son of his mother, and the only heir of his father, the son through whom promises are realized.  A special bride is chosen for him.  He dwelt in the land of inheritance, biding by thBaxtere wells of water, with many joys and few conflicts, we see in him the privileges and joys of sonship.
  6. Jacob – a man of service.  Jacob is the worker throughout, busy with his hands.  He struggles to obtain the blessing.  He is touched by God and becomes the prince of prayer.  He is spiritual at heart.  He is eager in his activity, work, and service.
  7. Joseph – a man of suffering and glory.  Faith, sonship, and service blend together in his life.  Joseph is made perfect through sufferings.  

These seven men are set apart by the writer of Hebrews as great men of faith (see Hebrews 11).

Suggestions to Study these Seven Men:

    

  1. Study them biographically.  Note dominant features and determining crises.  Illustrate and apply.
  2. Study them spiritually.  Which transcending truths enlighten the mind?  Which transcending truths regulate the life?
  3. Study them prophetically.  Baxter suggests the following prophecies within Genesis:  Christ (3.14-15); Earth (3.17-18; 8.21-22); Race (9.25-27); Israel (13.14-17; 22.15-18); Nations and tribes (17.19-20; 25.23; 48.17-20; 49.1-28).
  4. Study them dispensationally.  A dispensation is a period of time during which man is tested in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God.  Baxter numbers seven in Scripture and four in Genesis:  1) Innocence in which God tests man; 2) Conscience in which God suffered man; 3) Human Government in which God restrained man; 4) Promise in which God wrought for man.
  5. Study Genesis geographically, critically, and textually.

Explore the Book: Genesis (Pt 2)

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:1–2)

Creation

  • “In the beginning God” – denies atheism with its doctrine of no God
  • “In the beginning God” – denies polytheism with its doctrine of many gods
  • “In the beginning God created” – denies fatalism with its doctrine of chance
  • “In the beginning God created” – denies evolution with its doctrine of infinite becoming
  • “God created heaven and earth” – denies pantheism which makes God and the universe identical
  • “God created heaven and earth” – denies materialism which asserts the eternity of matter

Note:  It is at this point that Baxter maintains what many older commentators maintained.  He held to a gap of time that elapses between Genesis 1.1 and Genesis 1.2.  He claims that these verses have no logical connection.  He seeks to reconcile science with the Bible by explaining geology through this gap of time.  He believes that the earth was reformed. Further, he believes that the days in Genesis 1-2 are not literal days but point to the process, progress, and purpose they exhibit.  This effects his view of Genesis 2.

I maintain that God created all things in six literal days.  There was no recreation of the heavens and the earth.  There is no large gap of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.  As far as the age of the geological table, I believe God created the heavens and the earth with the appearance of age.  Adam and Eve were not created as infants but as full-grown adults.  The gap theory and any other acquiescence to science ought to be dismissed.  The text in Genesis is literal and historical.

Click this link to understand more about the Gap Theory and recent modifications made to it.

Fall

  1. Temptation (Genesis 3.1-6) – The tempter could only tempt.  There need not have been sin.  There was no reason to yield to temptation.  The temptation was strengthened by the questioning of God’s Word (3.1), flat out contradiction (3.4), and the maligning of God’s motive behind the prohibition given (3.5).
  2. Yielding (Genesis 3.6) – Satan captured the ear, the eye, the inward desire, and finally the will.  Eve allowed her ear to listen to the tempter, her eye to become fixed upon the object of temptation, and her desire to run away with her will (cp. Genesis 3.6 with 1 John 2.16 and 2 Timothy 2.14).
  3. Results (Genesis 3.7-24) – Eyes were in fact opened and they knew they were naked.  Innocence was gone.  Shame manifested itself.  Surely there were outward and inward changes.  Attendant with sin was fear and hiding.  Yet God remembers mercy and delivers the promise of a coming Savior (Genesis 3.15).

Flood

We know little about the period between the Fall and the Flood.  It is a 1600 year period when corruption became so thorough that the intervention of God was unavoidable.  Retribution became inevitable.  It illustrates the need for separation between the lines of Seth and Cain.  It illustrates the need to remain uncompromising in our world today.

Note:  Baxter believes that it is not necessary to hold to a universal flood in order to maintain inspiration.  He is mistaken.  The promise of God mitigates against this belief.  There have been many localized floods that have taken tens of thousands of lives in a single incident.  His material on this point is confusing and incoherent.

To better understand the Genesis flood, click here to examine its universality.
Baxter
Babel

This event marks the pluralizing of human language.  This was necessary as a form of judgment due to unwholesome unity and rebellion against God.

Note:  Baxter’s addendum to Lesson 2 buttressed his argument for a Gap Theory.  Research regarding the Days of Creation is found by clicking the link.  In spite of Baxter’s support of the Gap Theory, we will find much value and profit in Explore the Book.  We just need to be discerning.