Weekly Torah Section: Pinchas Numbers 25:10-30:1, HafTorah I Kings 18:46-19:21
This week we pick back up with the saga of Elijah after the conflict on Mt. Carmel with the prophets of Ba’al, his pinnacle of success as a prophet to the northern kingdom. G-d has answered him in a wonderful way. Rain comes, Elijah tells Ahab to hurry home before the rains make it impossible. In verse 46 it says the Hand of G-d was on him and he ran before Ahab. The idea here is that after his victory Elijah was considered part of the king’s entourage now. Ahab included him in the company going before him. So why does he run as soon as Jezebel threatens him two verses later? Maybe his new position gave him a false sense of security, maybe he trusted Ahab to protect him. Is it easy to take our eyes off of G-d as our protector and shield? So Elijah takes his servant and runs to the wilderness – to Beersheva. The wilderness is often used as a place of refuge. Israel, David, Yeshua, all had experiences in the wilderness. It is also a place of revelation. Think what we have said about the word for desert. In Hebrew the word for desert is midbar. To speak is ledaber. The root word is the same in both words. People went to the desert to hear from G-d.
Elijah needed to hear from G-d. What was going on? He was looking for direction. In fact in 19:4 he asks G-d to take his life. What did he mean when he said he was no better than his fathers? His fathers had failed to turn Israel back to G-d. In his life he had called fire from heaven, demonstrated G-d’s power over Ba’al, yet Jezebel remained in power and she had no intention of letting go. He felt he had failed.
So he lay down to sleep and an angel ministered to him and told him he had a long journey before him. He went 40 days and nights to Horeb – the same mountain where G-d had met Moses. Similar to Yeshua in the wilderness. (Mark 1:13)
Elijah goes to (the) cave (verse 19:9) and here G-d asked him a question, the first of two times. “What are you doing here?” Elijah answers him saying he alone is left. He overstates the truth here. Is he the only one left? No. Do you sometimes feel that you are the only one left? You aren’t. Elijah wasn’t. He overstates Israel’s position. He should have petitioned G-d like Moses did, to have mercy on Israel. But rather he was bringing charges against them.
Elijah then finds G-d in the still small voice. First, G-d showed Elijah the same things that Moses had seen, earthquakes, fire, strong wind, but where was G-d this time? Then in verse 13 G-d asked him again, “What are you doing here?” This question has been in my mind the entire week. What am I doing here? Elijah should have been among his people not running away to a mountain. I have concluded that I am doing what G-d would have me doing here – today. So my question that I put to each of you is, “What are you doing here?” Are you doing what G-d has for you? What are you doing? If that question is difficult to answer as I would think it might be, we must struggle with it and find the answer in our lives. This is vital. Yesterdays miracles did not sustain Elijah nor will they sustain us. We must go on with what G-d has for us, what He wants for us. So, “What are you doing here?”
In the Torah portion in Numbers we read the verses covering the end of the story of Pinchas. His actions avert a plague in Israel. G-d blesses him with a covenant of peace for eternity. Like Elijah we read here that He was zealous for G-d. So is he a role model for us? What does it mean to be zealous for G-d? Was Yeshua zealous for G-d? Do we have a bottom line where we say that’s as far as I go? What do I get passionate about? In our world today there are things that scream out to us to put our foot down and say no. Our challenge is that these times must come from G-d and not from our own background prejudices. Pinchas by character was a peaceful compassionate man. I think the Torah gives us a clue about this in covering both his linage as well as Zimri’s. Pinchas was from the family of Aaron, a man of peace and love for his people. Zimri was from the tribe of Simeon – the tribe whose founder along with Levi had slaughtered the men in Sheckem. He was a rebel by background.
So as Pinchas acted almost contrary to his personality we must be sure of why we are putting our foot down. There are those things that go on around us that require a response from the body of the Messiah – not silence. But we must be sure of our motives when we take a stand. Are we acting out of our zeal for G-d or for our own agenda?