By: Michael Peebles
Date: July , 9 2013
This is a reflective meditation seated in the Pinchas Torah reading. Applicable Scripture portions are:
Numbers 25:1-12 – the action of Pinchas, and the promise of the covenant of shalom.
I Kings 19 – the zeal of Elijah and the choice of Elisha as his successor.
Luke 9 – the transfiguration and context, ending with the plowman metaphor.
We have had time to digest this reading, and let it work upon our hearts. Perhaps we could enter together into a reflection on it that would be useful.
This is a peculiar time in history. Regarding zeal for the things of God, we have two basic problems. The first is apathy. There is an acute lack of righteous zeal. The second is carnality. Where there is zeal, it often is tainted in its application by impure motives on the part of those who are named, or identified, as people of God. This results in wrong action. An action driven by impure motives may be the wrong action, or it may be taken at the wrong time, or both.
Consider the action of Pinchas. He knew it was the right action at the right time, for two reasons besides whatever direct burden the Ruach Elohim may have put directly upon him. Moses had communicated that lethal force was needed against the disobedient, and the plague was running through the people. The lethal work was already underway in a judgment of death from God among the people for allowing the sin to go on unchallenged.
Pinchas had a jealousy, or passion, or zeal, that matched with God’s own. It was pure, correct, and timely. He was commended for the exercise of it, and a special covenant was extended to him, the covenant of shalom. This is marked in the text by one of the textual oddities; the broken vav in the word shalom.
This vav may represent several different things to us. Vav is the nail, hook, or fastener. As rendered in this part of the Torah text, vav appears as a large yud and a tiny vav. So we find here not only the breaking of a vav, but the revealing of its character. It is the arm and hand of God Almighty above relating with tiny man below (vav is six). Another way, it is the mighty arm and hand of Yah fastening his covenant with tiny man by bringing man in proximity to Himself. This is at the very heart of shalom.
But in the immediate circumstances of the narrative, for the plague to be stayed, death (the breaking of life) had to occur, because of iniquity. Pinchas brought about the death of two people, and saved many lives which otherwise would have been lost through a divine judgment. The covenant with Pinchas was peculiar by the fact that it involved an earned rather than inherited status. Its fulfillment required the breaking of the relationship with the inherited line. Looking further, similar elements apply as the whole problem of sin and death is being dealt with through the death of the sinless one – the spotless lamb, the only begotten son of God, Yeshua our Savior.
So, we see that there can be in man a proper jealousy, or passion, or what will now be called zeal for the purposes of the remainder of this essay. It is a zeal in man that matches that which is in the heart of YHVH.
In the haftarah passage, the zeal of Elijah is in view. Twice, Elijah is asked, “what are you doing here?” Both times (before and after the wind, earthquake and fire), he talks to the Almighty about his zeal. Following this interlude, the judgment of YHVH is decreed against the people, to be carried out under Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha. But at the same time, Elijah and Elisha come into a special relationship, and ultimately Elisha takes up the mantle of Elijah. Zeal and shalom are here as in the story of Pinchas. A rending of life is present also, but here it is textually visible as the past behavior of the people toward the prophets, and as something foretold for future fulfillment.
Elisha is plowing behind the twelfth of twelve yoke of oxen when Elijah comes. He has the other teams working in front of him. He is overseeing while he works. He leaves after making a sacrifice on the spot, and without greeting his family. Later, Elijah is taken up to heaven, and Elisha remains, working under his mantle. Both Elijah and Elisha have their way of being completed and fulfilled in the process. Because of sin the people come under a lethal chastisement from God. The prophets’ work directly brings certain individuals into lethal judgment before God. Ahab, for instance, received a partial reprieve of judgment, but was killed in battle before Elijah ascended. Jezebel, on the other hand, was trampled upon by Jehu after being thrown down in Jezreel, while Elisha was prophet. Certain soldiers are struck down by fire from heaven, and so on.
Moving now to the narrative of Luke 9, the same elements are again in view. Here also, zeal is present with shalom. The elements of the narrative are so connected with the two passages discussed here it can hardly be doubted they were in view of the Holy Spirit and the Gospel writer as the passage was written. But this time the rending of life is almost hidden, and works in the passage in a very peculiar way.
In the first of the three passages, the rending of life is intensely presented. Zeal, both of YHVH and of Pinchas, is perceived in the action of the rending of life. The covenant of shalom is a result, but its realization or fulfillment is delayed into the future.
In the second passage, of the three elements, zeal is most clearly in view. In his statement, Elijah asserts he has been zealous because the children of Israel have “forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword.” So the children of Israel have destroyed and taken life, but the zeal he is talking about has also been evident in the scene at Carmel, which resulted in the death of the prophets of Baal. The rending of life is in the past and future of the passage, but the zeal of the prophet Elijah, and the zeal of YHVH, is the central element of it. Shalom is present in the comforting of Elijah and in other ways, but not so clearly evident as the other two elements.
In Luke 9, shalom is the element most clearly in view. Yeshua is ministering shalom, and his zeal can be understood from that. Zeal is present in others, but being disciplined and used to bring shalom. The rending of life is almost hidden. The fact that Yeshua will be going to suffer death in Jerusalem is present, and in contrast, the willingness of James and John to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritans. The relatively gentle rebuke of Yeshua is the result. He ministers his own heart to them, disciplining their zeal to become more like his.
But let us reflect upon the following;
Shalom comes to the people as Yeshua and his disciples labor zealously in their set apart work of preaching the Kingdom and healing the sick. A judgment from YHVH can result as they dust their feet leaving a witness against those communities that would not receive them.
John the Immerser had been beheaded by Herod because of zeal – he did not shrink from rebuking Herod.
The people found shalom in Yeshua – they came into the wilderness because of their hunger and thirst for spiritual things. They were fed physically and spiritually, blessed and fulfilled; refreshed made more whole by the Messiah.
As Yeshua was transfigured, our Sar Shalom was more clearly revealed than ever before. In the Father’s words, the heart of YHVH is clearly revealed. It is a heart of love for the Son, and for us.
Moses and Elijah were present there, just as they were present in historical setting of the other two passages.
Yeshua could cast out the devil, because he had done the work of prayer and fasting necessary to bring it about. Shalom in this instance results from zeal applied to prepare, not just to work in the moment of need. (If this thought bothers you – please comment. It needs development in order to be more complete, but it is stark truth that should forcefully confront every one of us. Our warfare is not with flesh and blood! Note that the judgment of God stands here against a chronic rending of life conducted by the tormenting demon against the child.)
VERY PERTINENT – “Let these sayings sink down into your ears”! This is a process that takes time. Many of you will be thinking by now that this devotional is too long. Beware! Many of us will not take time to let the saying of Scripture truth, or the work of the Spirit, develop its fruit. Judgment is threatened upon us as people of YHVH because we are too busy to dwell in our spiritual inheritance. You cannot have the fruit of thoughtful reflection without actually doing it yourself. It is a thing that requires zeal, and yields shalom. The judgment of YHVH and a rending of life can come where apathy (lukewarmness) rules. Whether you take time to reflect on this particular essay may not be very significant, but you must take time for relationship with the Heavenly Father.
The zeal of the disciples was trained and instructed as they tried to figure out who was the greatest.
Their zeal was disciplined as they tried to prevent others from entering into the work.
Their zeal was also trained as they inquired about calling down fire from heaven.
The result was abounding life – Shalom!
The lesson of the first follower is that shalom is in Yeshua, and not in harmony with desiring things.
The lesson of the second follower is that shalom is about bringing life, and can’t wait for serving the dead.
The lesson of the third follower shows how these things were all shown long before in the calling of Elisha. He had the other teams before him when he plowed, and he worked for YHVH the same way. He sacrificed the animals over the implements he plowed with, fed others, and did not even go back to greet his family.
Shalom comes from our Creator! It comes with his Kingdom, and is a result of zeal, lived out before God – applied under his training and instruction. It means acquiring his heart, and his passion to bring life. Life abounds as Yeshua ministers his life to us and through us by the power of the Holy Spirit. For those who will not enter in to life, there must and shall be a rending, but it is not what the work of the Kingdom is about. The Kingdom is about bringing life where death has reigned. The figure of the broken vav is then complete.