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B'Midbar/Numbers 25:11 ... so I did not consume the Children of Israel in my zeal
The last word in our reading is variously translated zeal (as here and the NIV), jealousy (NASB) and even vengeance (Stones). Pinchas has just abrogated all the Torah's careful instructions about fair trials, the need for warning and witness, and in his zeal for G-d and His righteousness has killed a man, a prince from the tribe of Simeon. The Sages in the Yerushalmi Talmud state that Moshe and the Elders did not approve of Pinchas' actions and were about to rebuke him when G-d intervened by speaking these words - thus showing that Pinchas had acted in line with G-d's own zeal. G-d's anger and jealousy had been aroused by the Israelites committing harlotry with the Moabites and worshipping their idols.
In Zechariah 8:1 the prophet uses the words from the same root three times in a single verse to describe the intensity of emotion that the L-rd feels over Tziyon, the city of Jerusalem: "I am zealous for Tziyon, zeal, great and burning, I am zealous for her." Remember also the way that Yeshua said, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets! You stone those who are sent to you! How often I wanted to gather your children, just as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but you refused" (Matthew 23:27, CJB).
Clearly, there are some things that G-d is passionate about, and the Scriptures tell us that these are things He expects us to be passionate about as well. Rav Sha'ul tells us "[Yeshua the Messiah] gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds" (Titus 2:14, NASB). Yeshua is zealous that we should be a holy people, totally set apart and committed exclusively to Him, and He is looking for us to be zealous about doing good deeds which, Rav Sha'ul writes, is why we were created. "For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which G-d prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10, NASB). We must only be careful that we are zealous for G-d's works and not our own.
Further Study: Titus 3:9; 1 Peter 3:13
Application: Have you fallen away from from zeal and passion for the things of G-d, for His people and for the good works that He has called us to ?
© Jonathan Allen, 2004
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