234 – Numbers 25 – Jealous God
Like other Old Testament passages, Numbers chapter twenty-five can be a hard passage for the modern-day believer to process. It’s not that it’s hard to understand, but rather we have a hard time thinking about it in light of what we perceive as New Testament truth. Providing the most succinct summary I can think of, I would say of chapter twenty-five, Israel sinned and God killed the sinners!
“Well certainly”, you may protest, “that’s not what God does today!” To which I would remind you of a verse in Malachi.
6 “For I, Yahweh, have not changed, and you, O children of Jacob, have not perished.
You may protest further saying, “again, that’s an Old Testament verse.” Ok, here’s the New Testament partner verse.
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of change.
God has not, does not, and never will change.
Let’s consider the first three verses of Numbers 25.
25:1 When Israel dwelled in Shittim, the people began to prostitute themselves with the daughters of Moab.
2 And they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and worshiped their gods.
3 So Israel was joined together to Baal Peor, and Yahweh became angry with Israel.
As we saw last time, Revelation 2:14 informs us Balaam taught Balak how to defeat the Israelites. It was to put this very temptation before the nation, and they fell for it hook, line, and sinker! As an aside Balaam’s clever trick to get around YHWH’s prohibiting him from cursing Israel for profit, was the very thing that cost him his life.
Is YHWH being harsh? So they committed sexual sin, other people do it, right? Is it a big deal that Israel participated in pagan worship? They mostly worshipped God, right? I mean, come on, does God have a right to be angry with them? Couldn’t He just say, I rather you wouldn’t have does these things, but boys will be boys!
YHWH God had a legal right to be angry and punish them. Let’s peek into the book of Deuteronomy.
6 ‘I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery.
7 There shall not be for you other gods besides me.
8 ‘You shall not make for yourself a divine image of any type of form that is in the heaven above or that is on the earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth.
9 ‘You shall not bow down to them, and you shall not serve them, for I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God, punishing the guilt of fathers upon their children and upon the third and upon the fourth generation of those hating me,
10 but showing loyal love to thousands of those who love me and of those who keep my commandments.
Let me try to carefully summarize the covenant relationship between YHWH and Israel as stated here.
- My name is Yahweh
- I am your God
- I brought you out of slavery
- I am your God
- you will have no other god
- I am a Jealous God
- I punish your sin
- I demonstrate a loyal love to those who
- Love me and
- Keep my commandments
I hope you can see that God had a legal right to be angry with Israel and to kill them for their sin. It is not just an Old Testament truth. The New Testament makes it clear in many, many passages that God has a legal right to be angry with us and punish us for our sin. Jesus however, stood in our place. Jesus took the beating we deserved. Jesus suffered embarrassment caused by our sin. Jesus died a horrible death in our place. But then He did something we could never have done for (or by) ourselves. He rose from the dead victoriously!
God has always judged sin as both the Old and New Testaments make clear. It’s just that in the New Testament we see God pouring out His wrath upon Jesus instead of sinful man. I think we should take sin far more seriously as believers than we do – it has such grave consequences!
If you keep reading in Numbers 25 you will discover that God sent a deadly plague among Israel for this sin. It took death to stop the plague.
God is a jealous God, but it is not human jealousy. God is righteously and legally jealous concerning His people. He is a good God, why should He share His glory with carvings that are no gods? Why would they (or we for that matter) be so insulting to His goodness and salvation?
God truly is a good and loving God who judges righteously. He and He alone is worthy of all praise, worship, and adoration.
All scripture, unless otherwise noted, from Harris, W. Hall, III et al., eds. The Lexham English Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012. Print.