The events record in Numbers chapter 25 are a sad record of the departure of the children of Israel from the ways of the Lord. One of the Israelites emerged with considerable credit as a result of his prompt action in dealing with an open sin in the camp committed by two individuals one ‘of a chief house among the Simeonites’, and the other ‘of a chief house in Midian’, vv. 14, 15. His name was Phinehas and he was zealous for the Lord and stopped further judgement upon the people of God through his positive action in dealing with sin. Phinehas’ attributes are well recorded in the Scriptures and suggest very readily the characteristics which should be evident in a New Testament overseer. With him there was no respect of persons. He was not influenced by the prominence of offending indi-viduals, though one was a prince in Israel and the other a princess in Midian. ‘The Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous (= jelous) for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children oof Israel in my jealousy’, 25. 10-11. His attributes compare well with the details required of the elder in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. They can be listed as follows;
1) Blameless. Malachi 2. 6 records, ‘the law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips … and did turn many way from iniquity’.
There is a continual need for the elder to be bove reproach.
2) Vigilant. Numbers 25. 6-7, ‘And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought into his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel . .. and when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand’.
The overseer needs to be watchful and ready to act decisively.
3) Sober. The account in Joshua 22 records how Phinehas prevented a war between the children of Israel and the children of Reuben, nd the children of God and the half tribe of Manesseh; for they had built an altar for convenience over against the land of Canaan. The children of Israel sent Phinehas and with him ten princes of each chief house of the tribes of Israel to them saying, thus saith the whole congregation of the Lord, what trespass is this that ye have committed against the God of Israel, to turn away this day from following the Lord, in that ye have builded you an altar, that ye might rebel this day against the Lord? Is the iniquity of Peor too little for us although there was a plague in the congregation of the Lord’, vv. 16-17.
The elder should be discreet, exercise wisdom and patience s well as promoting peace in the assembly.
4) Good behaviour. Malachi 2. 6 states, ‘e walked with me in peace and equity’.
The elder’s behaviour should always be a good example to follow.
5) Holding fast the faihtful word. Hebrews 4. 12 records, ‘For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword’. Numbers 25. 7-8, ‘Phinehas took a javelin in his hand and went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through’. The javelin would be two edged like a sword.
The elder should be skilful in handling the word of God and cling tenaciously thereto and ‘that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and convince the gainsayers’, Tit. 1. 9.
6) One that ruleth well his own house. Phinehas had priestly descend-ants. 1 Chronicles 6. 10 records, ‘and Johanan begat Azariah (he it is that executed the priest’s office in the temple that Solomon built in Jerusalem). Ezra was another of his Descendants, Ezra 7. 1-5.
The behaviour of the overseer’s children should always be a credit to him.
7) Just Psalm 106. 30-31 records, Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgement: and so the plague was stayed and that was counted unto him for righteousness’.
The elder should always be characterised by righteousness.
Phinehas was a priest unto God by natural descent. His family alone could minister to the Lord according to their office but it is good to remember that now all who believe on the Lord Jesus are priests unto God and His Father by spiritual birth, 1 Pet. 2. 5, 9; Rev. 20. 6.
Though we have drawn illustrations from the life of Phinehas to com-pare with the qualities which should characterise a New Testament over-seer, these same qualities should be evident in all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ. Any brother who is spiritual and zealous for the Lord would be expected to act decisively to maintain the Lord’s honour. The events recorded in Numbers 25 are recorded at the end of the journeys of the children of Israel when sin was so evident among them. We are now experiencing conditions of the last days, and the sevant of the Lord, and the man of God of 2 Timothy 2. 24-25, 3. 16-17, 4. 2 could also fittingly be portrayed by the character and actions of Phinehas.
In addition to the characteristics recorded in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, Phinehas was reliable. Numbers 31 records how Phinehas was sent to war against the Midianites ‘with the holy instruments, and the trumpets to blow in his hand’, v. 6. He was also head over the gatekeepers of the tabernacle, ‘and the Lord was with him’, 1 Chron. 9. 20. He had a good report from the historical books, 1 Chron. 9, from the Psa. Psalms 106; and from the Book of the Prophets, Mai. 2.
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