He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites (Bemidbar / Numbers 25:13)
At the end of last week's portion, we read of how Pinchas stopped God's judgement upon the people. God refers to this act as making atonement. Atonement is a very important theme throughout the Scriptures.
The word "atonement" comes from the Hebrew word "to cover." When we commit sin, we put ourselves in a place where we are vulnerable to God's judgement. Atonement is the covering protection from that judgement. Certain sacrifices were provided for that very purpose.
In the case of Pinchas his zealous act of confronting rampant immorality made atonement for the rest of the people.
This story brings up a great many issues. I wish to focus on how this one man's act could make such a difference in the welfare of the entire community. His zeal for God's honor put the people back into a proper relationship with their Creator.
What might be difficult for many of us to understand is the relationship between the actions of one person and the rest of the nation. We don't like to admit that the wrongs of some could have a devastating effect upon others in the society who are not directly involved with those people and their wrongs.
But the reality is - contrary to the principle of cause and effect - our lives do affect the lives of others whether they are directly involved or not.
One single act of good or evil can make all the difference in a society. We shouldn't think that the only way we can make a difference in this life is if we can rally enough people to our cause. There may be times that great numbers are called for, but if we find ourselves alone in a cause, it is amazing what we can still accomplish.
In Pinchas' case, his actions made the difference between an entire nation and God.
This same principle is evident in what Yeshua did. What Pinchas did for a nation, Yeshua has done for the world:
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).
Yeshua's single act of atoning sacrifice has provided us with the covering we need to protect us from God's judgement. What we could not do for ourselves, this one man, the Messiah, did on our behalf. He is our atonement.
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