Before the Israelites began the fight against the evildoers, they had expected an easy victory. They would do that job in a short time. After all, they were by an overwhelming majority, weren’t they? The result of this attitude, however, is that they have already been defeated twice. They don’t understand anything about it anymore.
In their desperation they humbly turn and in tears again to the LORD in Bethel (meaning ‘house of God’) and ask Him if they need to go up again. They even start fasting. There is now no longer any question of man oneself and going back to battle again. They realize that they have failed. It begins to dawn on them that God has something to say to them first.
Before they go to ask God, they offer “burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD”. That’s beautiful. By offering these offerings they say, as it were, that they can only exist before God on the basis of the value of these sacrifices. Both sacrifices speak of the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross.
The burnt offering shows this work as a work by which the Lord Jesus on the cross glorified God completely. It is an offering entirely reserved for God (Lev 1:1-171Then the LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying,2“Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When any man of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock.3If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer it, a male without defect; he shall offer it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD.4He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf.5He shall slay the young bull before the LORD; and Aaron’s sons the priests shall offer up the blood and sprinkle the blood around on the altar that is at the doorway of the tent of meeting.6He shall then skin the burnt offering and cut it into its pieces.7The sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire.8Then Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head and the suet over the wood which is on the fire that is on the altar.9Its entrails, however, and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall offer up in smoke all of it on the altar for a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD.10‘But if his offering is from the flock, of the sheep or of the goats, for a burnt offering, he shall offer it a male without defect.11He shall slay it on the side of the altar northward before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall sprinkle its blood around on the altar.12He shall then cut it into its pieces with its head and its suet, and the priest shall arrange them on the wood which is on the fire that is on the altar.13The entrails, however, and the legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall offer all of it, and offer it up in smoke on the altar; it is a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD.14‘But if his offering to the LORD is a burnt offering of birds, then he shall bring his offering from the turtledoves or from young pigeons.15The priest shall bring it to the altar, and wring off its head and offer it up in smoke on the altar; and its blood is to be drained out on the side of the altar.16He shall also take away its crop with its feathers and cast it beside the altar eastward, to the place of the ashes.17Then he shall tear it by its wings, [but] shall not sever [it]. And the priest shall offer it up in smoke on the altar on the wood which is on the fire; it is a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD.). On the basis of that offering God can bless His people and accept them. It is the only ground on which this can be done. For us this is beautifully expressed in Ephesians 1, where it says that God made us pleasant “in the Beloved” (Eph 1:66to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.). Bringing a burnt offering means that we are aware that God sees us in the value of the work of the Lord Jesus and not on the basis of anything in ourselves.
The peace offering is a fellowship offering. It expresses that through the work of the Lord Jesus, fellowship is possible with God, with the Lord Jesus and with all members of God’s people. A description of this sacrifice can be found in Leviticus 3 and 7 (Lev 3:1-171‘Now if his offering is a sacrifice of peace offerings, if he is going to offer out of the herd, whether male or female, he shall offer it without defect before the LORD.2He shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and slay it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall sprinkle the blood around on the altar.3From the sacrifice of the peace offerings he shall present an offering by fire to the LORD, the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails,4and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, which is on the loins, and the lobe of the liver, which he shall remove with the kidneys.5Then Aaron’s sons shall offer [it] up in smoke on the altar on the burnt offering, which is on the wood that is on the fire; it is an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD.6But if his offering for a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD is from the flock, he shall offer it, male or female, without defect.7If he is going to offer a lamb for his offering, then he shall offer it before the LORD,8and he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and slay it before the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons shall sprinkle its blood around on the altar.9From the sacrifice of peace offerings he shall bring as an offering by fire to the LORD, its fat, the entire fat tail which he shall remove close to the backbone, and the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails,10and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, which is on the loins, and the lobe of the liver, which he shall remove with the kidneys.11Then the priest shall offer [it] up in smoke on the altar [as] food, an offering by fire to the LORD.12‘Moreover, if his offering is a goat, then he shall offer it before the LORD,13and he shall lay his hand on its head and slay it before the tent of meeting, and the sons of Aaron shall sprinkle its blood around on the altar.14From it he shall present his offering as an offering by fire to the LORD, the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails,15and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, which is on the loins, and the lobe of the liver, which he shall remove with the kidneys.16The priest shall offer them up in smoke on the altar [as] food, an offering by fire for a soothing aroma; all fat is the LORD’s.17It is a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings: you shall not eat any fat or any blood.’”; 7:11-2111‘Now this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings which shall be presented to the LORD.12If he offers it by way of thanksgiving, then along with the sacrifice of thanksgiving he shall offer unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes [of well] stirred fine flour mixed with oil.13With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving, he shall present his offering with cakes of leavened bread.14Of this he shall present one of every offering as a contribution to the LORD; it shall belong to the priest who sprinkles the blood of the peace offerings.15‘Now [as for] the flesh of the sacrifice of his thanksgiving peace offerings, it shall be eaten on the day of his offering; he shall not leave any of it over until morning.16But if the sacrifice of his offering is a votive or a freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offers his sacrifice, and on the next day what is left of it may be eaten;17but what is left over from the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burned with fire.18So if any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings should [ever] be eaten on the third day, he who offers it will not be accepted, [and] it will not be reckoned to his [benefit]. It shall be an offensive thing, and the person who eats of it will bear his [own] iniquity.19‘Also the flesh that touches anything unclean shall not be eaten; it shall be burned with fire. As for [other] flesh, anyone who is clean may eat [such] flesh.20But the person who eats the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings which belong to the LORD, in his uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from his people.21When anyone touches anything unclean, whether human uncleanness, or an unclean animal, or any unclean detestable thing, and eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings which belong to the LORD, that person shall be cut off from his people.’”). Bringing this offering means that the consciousness is present of the fellowship that exists among the people of God.
Benjamin is also included in this. But because sin cannot have a place in this fellowship – it has been judged and is removed through the work of which this sacrifice speaks – sin must be judged. If there is then to be dealt with public sin among God’s people, it is from the meaning of this sacrifice and not from a personal grievance or a feeling hurt as a group. It is God’s intention that Israel then (and we now) stand on the basis of these sacrifices. We are never in a position to act with someone else before God has been able to act with what is contrary to His Name in our own souls.
Another important aspect is that the whole people are involved. If there are exercises to exercise discipline in a particular case, these exercises should not be limited to a few brothers. It concerns the entire local church. This is not a secret sin, of which only a few know, but something that is generally known.
There is often little strength in the exercise of discipline because the exercise is often limited to a few who show a spiritual mind. If we really come to God’s presence with a disciplinary case, we can no longer be only indignant. Then there is real grief about what has happened among us and where we ourselves are capable of.
There is also talk of “the ark of the covenant of God”. It is the only time that the book of Judges mentions the ark. The ark is a beautiful image of Christ. He is the basis of all the actions of God with us and of our actions for God. By always keeping that in mind, we are preserved from acting in the spirit of being better than the other. A proper judgment of evil and its elimination is no basis for fellowship. Our fellowship as saints is based only on Christ and His death. Only from this position can evil be judged. There, in picture, God must bring His people through the discipline He must allow.
This is not about a comparison between Benjamin and Israel, but about what is evil in the eyes of God and that it should be removed in the way He indicates. He cannot tolerate evil among His people because He dwells among His people. This applies in exactly the same way today for the local church that have gathered together in the Name of the Lord Jesus. He said of this: “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Mt 18:2020For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”). Therefore, sin must be removed from a local church.
In the process to which God subjects His people to bring them into the right mind, the name of Phinehas is also mentioned. As noted earlier, this indicates that the period in which this event takes place must be just after the people have arrived in the promised land. Phinehas is a man who has fought for the honor of God in the wilderness. If evil has entered the camp, he judges it by killing the evildoers (Num 25:6-156Then behold, one of the sons of Israel came and brought to his relatives a Midianite woman, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, while they were weeping at the doorway of the tent of meeting.7When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he arose from the midst of the congregation and took a spear in his hand,8and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and pierced both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman, through the body. So the plague on the sons of Israel was checked.9Those who died by the plague were 24,000.10Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,11“Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy.12Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give him My covenant of peace;13and it shall be for him and his descendants after him, a covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the sons of Israel.’”14Now the name of the slain man of Israel who was slain with the Midianite woman, was Zimri the son of Salu, a leader of a father’s household among the Simeonites.15The name of the Midianite woman who was slain was Cozbi the daughter of Zur, who was head of the people of a father’s household in Midian.).
We have to be zealous with God’s zeal and not with our natural feelings. With Phinehas was a holy, priestly and spiritual indignation. With him we can perceive insight into God’s thoughts. That the people come to him to consult the LORD through him also shows us that the people are where they should be.
We can say that Paul is the Phinehas of the New Testament. He has worked hard to make the will of God known in all churches. He has always fought when the believers threatened to deviate from Christ through wrong doctrine or wrong practices. It is to be hoped that each of us wants to be a Phinehas too.