There are many life examples recorded in the Bible for our learning and admonition so that we learn from the good ones and don’t repeat the mistakes of the bad ones. Our positions in these stories are very similar – they at the beginning, and we at the end of age. Truth is, we’re just as capable of messing up in our time as they were in theirs (1 Cor 10:11-12).
With that in mind, I want to briefly look at the life of two Phinehas in the Bible and draw some important lessons for our learning. Same name but two very different outcomes – one ended well, while the other ended tragically.
The first Phinehas was the son of Eleazar (Exo 6:25) and the grandson of Aaron, the high priest. He was known for his zealous act at Shittim. On that fateful day, the atmosphere in the camp was sombre as God instructed Moses and the leaders to kill those who had joined in worshiping Baal of Peor. Just then, one of the Israelite men brought a Midianite woman into his tent, right before the eyes of Moses and all the people, as everyone was weeping at the entrance of the Tabernacle.
When Phinehas saw this, he took a spear, went into the man’s tent, thrust it into the “sinning couple” and killed them. The plague against the Israelites stopped, but not before 24,000 people had died (Num 25:5-9). God commended Phinehas for having stopped Israel’s fall to idolatrous practices brought in by the Midianites, and for stopping the desecration of God’s sanctuary. For this zealous act, God promised Phinehas and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was “zealous for his God”, and made atonement for the children of Israel.
The second Phinehas also came from a priestly lineage, being the son of Eli, the high priest (1 Sam 1:3). It’d be safe to assume that he’s been taught to observe God’s commandments and God’s ways. Yet he and his brother Hophni committed great sins against the Lord – they defiled the Tabernacle, scorned sacrifices and offerings made to the Lord, which are holy, and slept with the women who served at the entrance of the Tabernacle. The Bible described them as “scoundrels who had no respect (regard) for the Lord or for their duties as priests…” 1 Sam 2:12-13 (NLT). The ending of this second Phinehas was tragic – he died in battle with the Philistines, and his wife on hearing of his death, gave birth to a son, whom she named “Ichabod” which means “The glory has departed” and then died as well.
The first Phinehas was consumed by a holy conviction to defend God’s Name and honour, whereas the second Phinehas had totally no regard for the Lord; whether his actions had displeased and hurt the Lord. God said this in 1 Sam 2:30 (NLT), “… I will honour those who honour me, and I will despise those who think lightly of me.”
Jesus too was consumed by the zeal of the Lord when He drove the people out of the temple courts, who turned God’s house into a money-making business centre (John 2:13-17).
You may ask, “How can we lose the zeal of the Lord?” One way is through compromise – when pleasing people (including yourself) become more important than pleasing God; when attracting people becomes more important than attracting God. Increasingly, we need to be able to discern what’s holy unto the Lord and what’s a compromise (Lev 10:3).
I believe “the way you win them is the way you keep them!” When you win people with programmes, you’ve to keep coming up with new programmes. Else they’ll go somewhere with newer and better programmes. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that programmes are not important. It’s when these things distract us from the main focus – God.
When you win people by presenting your needs, when those needs are met, they’ll leave you and find other places with greater needs. When you win people with the Presence of God and a heavenly vision, then God will sustain them for you. So do all it takes for God’s Presence to abide in you!
My friends, what’s consuming you right now? Is it the zeal and passion to uphold and defend God’s name and honour? To represent Him correctly and accurately to all people? Or just working toward living your dream of the “blessed life”?
Which of the two “Phinehas” will you choose to be?
Pastor Kevin Koh