Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal.” (Numbers 25:10-11)
As we mentioned in the previous devotion, though others accused him of murder, God rewarded Phineas with a covenant of peace and everlasting priesthood. Knowing that our Heavenly Father is just, long-suffering and quick to forgive, we must conclude that Phineas’ actions were not motivated by anger and hatred — or else we would be reading of a different result. As hard as it is for some to be content with his actions, it would seem that Phineas acted out of love and concern for the nation. In that context we conclude that, in certain situations, the right kind of zeal is good if it is the result of proper motivation and is tempered with wisdom.
Again, no one is saying that we have license to act in the same manner as Phineas; that would only result in a prison sentence, which is not a good testimony. However, in the larger scope of things, the argument can be made that, instead of taking lives, he saved lives. According to the text, his actions stopped the plague and “turned back” the wrath of God upon the children of Israel. So then, what some perceive as cruel and unusual punishment, for righteousness’ sake, it is akin to removing a cancer from the body. The simple facts are, if a cancer is allowed to remain in the body it will eventually consume the entire body. Thus out of concern for entire body, the cancer must be cut out and eradicated.
In our day and time, we would not and should not apply this principle in such a forceful and dramatic way. Where the Body of Messiah is concerned, sometimes we have to remove a “cancerous cell” by putting them outside of the community of faith. Paul addressed this issue with the congregation in Corinth at a time they were allowing the “cancerous cell” of sexual immorality to remain in the body. He told them to, “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord (1 Corinthians 5:5). The reason Paul would say such a thing is because, as he continued to point out in his letter, sin is like leaven — left to do it’s work, it will permeate the entire dough.
Therefore, whether the individual or the congregation, sin must be purged from among us lest it contaminate many more. It’s a hard thing to have to do but, there comes a time when it must be done. God help us to recognize this and to do our duty to Him and His Kingdom — let us never be content to coexist with sin.
Blessings and Shalom,