From: Lucia Pizzo Flaherty
Today’s passage in Numbers is very graphic and intense. Israel breaks some of the Ten Commandments (notably indulging in idolatry). God, fiercely angry, sends a plague and demands a sacrifice (kill the leaders of the people who have turned against God). Then one man, Phineas, steps up and hooks a man and a woman together onto one spear. The plague stops. We’re told, by God via Moses, that the plague stops “because he was zealous for the honor of his God” (Numbers 25.13).
Here, the stakes are high. A plague is destroying Israel. There is a clear cause and effect—specific sins by a specific group are causing a specific outcome. God demands a remedy that involves killing many people, but because of Phineas’s zeal, only one Israelite is killed. But how does this apply to us? Our world is very global, filled with many varied sins and many varied plagues. It is difficult to link specific plagues to specific sins, and I for one do not have a clear direction from God on what specific thing I can do to end any specific plague. But it seems that there is something in this zeal for God, this leap to action to defend God’s honor that brings God’s favor. I am not advocating that we go around stabbing people. But where in our daily lives and routines could we be zealous for God’s honor? Have we made seeking God just a matter of routine? Where is our zeal for God? What are we zealous for?
I live in Jamaica Plain with my husband and daughter. I have recently been zealous for sewing zipper pouches.