Dear radio friends,
Covenant, godly living. Do those words accurately describe your life?
What is covenant, godly living? The truth of the covenant is that truth, from the beginning to the end of the Bible, of the bond of fellowship with God in Jesus Christ. Godly living, that is, the covenant, is not merely an outward form of religion. It is not merely to play religion. But it comes forth from the grace of God in our hearts.
Covenant, godly living, that is, the friendship of God and living a godly life, reaches down to every area of our life and, therefore, must control our marriage, the rearing of our children, and our own individual walk of life. Now, do you live a covenant, godly life?
You ask, “But what is the heart of a covenant, godly life?” We sought to answer that last time. In the book of Genesis, chapter 17, verse 1, where God appeared to Abram, we found the very heart of a covenant, godly life. It is a profound, shattering knowledge that God is almighty God to me, and it is a commitment that every part of my life shall be lived for God’s eyes.
We would like to continue our series by fleshing this truth out a bit. We begin by applying it to ourselves as men.
We ask the question today, “What is covenant, godly living for a believing man?” We ask even a more basic question: What is a man? What is biblical manhood? “Be a man,” we are told from our little days. What is it to be a man? Is it some macho thing – iron-bodied, chiseled jaw, dark, wavy hair? Is it to know how to handle a woman? If you look around in the world for your definition of a man, you will end up being a self-inflated brute.
What does God say a man is?
I’d like to answer that question by following an old adage that one picture is worth a thousand words. So, I’d like to look at the picture of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, who was zealous for the Lord’s sake. Phinehas’ story is found in Numbers 25:10-13. We will take our message from that passage today. Open your Bibles to Numbers 25:10-13 and read that passage.
The heart of biblical manhood is to live out of a zeal for God. Phinehas is the example. Do not say that he is an unattainable ideal. Do not say, “But now wait a minute, that comes from the Old Testament. But we live in a different age than way back then. We live in a day of open sex and different influences and powers. You can’t expect us to live the way he did. Besides, don’t you believe that we are saved by grace, so our life really doesn’t matter?” No, no, do not say any of that. Phinehas is given by God in His infallible Word to be for us a picture of biblical manhood and what it means in every day life to be a man.
is to live out of a zeal for God.
The setting in Numbers 25 is this: Israel was about to enter the land of Canaan. They were so close. Only miles separated them now from the promised land. They had been journeying for forty years under many testings. And they were about to enter into the picture of heaven itself, the Old Testament land of Canaan. Yet, although they were so close, they showed that, according to their own sinful nature, they were a long way from Canaan. They remained undeserving.
It happened, the incident of Phinehas, after the strategy of a false prophet called Balaam. The king of Moab, Balak, had hired Balaam to curse Israel. You can read of that in Numbers 22-24. And Balaam tried three times to curse Israel, so that he could gain the gold and silver that he was promised. But, instead of uttering a curse, his mouth spoke a blessing.
But evidently the greedy heart of Balaam counseled Balak the king of Moab that there was another way to get at the children of Israel, a way in which God’s wrath would burn against Israel. So his counsel was that Balak would get the women of Midian to dance before the men of Israel, to lure them into fornication, and then to have them commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Baalpeor. Baalpeor was a place where the idol Baal was served. At that service of Baal were also houses of prostitution, where every evil would be performed. Balaam aimed then at the genocide of God’s people. He wanted the men of Israel to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab and to join themselves to Baalpeor.
That was no little sin. And it actually happened. That temptation occurred and the men of Israel, many of them, followed. That was not a little sin! That is not a little sin today in the church. Fornication is not a little sin.
The utter seriousness of it comes out exactly when we are told that Israel joined themselves to Baalpeor. That is the whole point. God will not share. God is jealous. The sin of fornication is a picture of the child of God joining with sin. But God says, “That won’t be; that can’t be, because I have redeemed you to Myself in the blood of My Son. I have called you out of the world. And I have joined you to Myself. You are not to be joined to sin, but to Me.” The love of God is not neutral. Nor is God neutral. When His people join themselves to sin, then God comes in His faithful chastening.
The sin that was committed by Israel came to its boldness in a man called Zimri, who was a prince in the nation of Israel. He took a woman of Moab, who was also from a chief house. He took her in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the congregation who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle. He took her into his own tent to commit fornication with her, defiantly, shamelessly, openly, demonically. He said, “I don’t care what you say. There is only me, my lust, and my appetite.”
In our day it is the same thing. This sin is very loud. It is out in the open. It is as a great monster sucking up men, controlling men and women. Apparently even Moses was shocked. And the people of God were shocked and frozen and stood there.
But then we read that Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the grandson of Aaron, saw it and rose up with a javelin in his hand and went after the man and entered into the tent. With one thrust of his javelin, he killed both of them in their act of lust. And the Holy Spirit points now to Phinehas and to the source of his courage, to what lay behind his act. His act was not the self-righteous act of a man. It was not the act of some Islamic fanatic who says that women ought to be pure – while he charges pornography on his credit card. It was not simply a man who was trying to uphold the cultural norms of society. No, Phinehas acted because he was zealous for God. The Word of God says, “He was zealous for My sake among the people.”
That is a man of God. That is biblical manhood, to have a zeal for God.
What is zeal for God? The word “zeal” is jealousy or zealous. To be concerned about one’s rights is the intent – an ardent insistence on what belongs to one. God is a jealous God. God insists on what belongs to Him – His name and His honor. He is committed to His own honor. He is God, whose is the right to command and who determines what we are to be. He is God who has taken to Himself a church, a wife, and has redeemed this church for Himself. He will not share the affections of His people. He will not compromise on His holy Word. He is God. God’s jealousy is simply His insistence that He is God and shall be God.
To be zealous for God means that we desire God to be God to us, that we acknowledge Him as God, and that we desire Him to be exalted. This zeal for God was seen, above all, in Jesus Christ His Son. The Scriptures say of Him, “The zeal of the Lord’s house hath eaten him up.” He said to His disciples, “I have meat to eat that ye know not of. My meat is to do the will of him that sent me” (John 4:32-34). Jesus Christ was a God-centered man. Jesus Christ lived in zeal for God – that God would be glorified. He lived out of one holy passion: to do the will of Him that sent Him.
Zeal in us as men of God is rooted in Jesus Christ. In Christ we also have a holy zeal for God. Zeal for God, then, is an overwhelming desire of the heart to be devoted to the honor of God in your life. It will cause you, as a man, to buck the stream of popular opinion, to buck the stream of lust and greed and ambition and pride and drunkenness. These things shall not rule in your life. But God shall be the center and the sum of all of your affections. Zeal for God is a pleasure and a satisfaction of our soul in the service of God which no other thing can impart to us.
Do you know what that means? That means that God gives you to see Him in His majesty and to see yourself in your sin and filth and corruption. That is sovereign grace. A man of God? A man of God is one who has been emptied of himself, of his self-pleasing, of his self-serving, and of his self-loving, and is now filled with one holy thing: to do the will of God who has saved him.
I said “emptied” of self. That word is too nice. That word would imply that if spiritually we could somehow be turned upside-down, all of our self-love and self-centeredness would just pour out nice and clean and easy. That is not the way it works. I should say instead, to be scraped out of our self. A man of God is one who knows the scalpel of God’s Word, daily cutting down and cutting out his own sinful self, identifying himself. A man of God is one who understands that there is not a half-step between himself and God. There is an infinite chasm. I am a sinner. Yet this God, who has shown to me my sins, is also a God of mercy, who has willed to take me into His arms.
That is zeal for God. Listen to another man of God express zeal: Job. I abhor myself, for I have heard of him and mine eyes have seen the king of glory.
Are you a man of God? Do you have biblical manhood?
No man in an office or on the job-site, or young man in the locker room, when he is confronted with sexual filth and is pulled to go along with it and to laugh at the joke is going to withstand that and stand up for God – if he has not been given to know himself as a sinner and given to see the Lord in His glory and to say with the apostle: “I am what I am by the grace of God.” No husband is going to take up the duties to care for all the spiritual needs of his family, the emotional needs of his wife, and to take up his headship and to deny himself who has not been given to see himself as a sinner and to see the Lord in His glory. No father is going to have patience with his son, no father is going to have patience with the infant or with the strong-willed child, who is not a man filled with zeal for God.
No, a man is measured this way: Does he have zeal for the living God, the God who has loved him out of a dunghill and sworn to be a covenant God to him? Then he will take up his responsibilities as did Phinehas. He will be zealous for God’s sake among His people. He will have courage.
What is courage? Courage flows from zeal for God. Courage is trust in God. The humblest child of God who is distrustful of himself but resolved that God shall be glorified by him is the most courageous child of God.
A man who has zeal for God will also express it in responsibility. We could imagine that Phinehas could have reasoned that day this way, “Well, wait a minute. Moses is the leader of the people of God. Let’s see what he’s going to do about this.” Or, “Well, that’s the elders’ job, isn’t it? Doesn’t Moses have seventy elders around here? Where are they? Shouldn’t they do this?” Or, “Well, I’m from the tribe of Levi, and the true rule is supposed to come from Judah, isn’t it? So, we’ll just wait to see what the men of Judah will do about this.”
No, Phinehas assumed responsibility – because he loved God’s people and he saw himself standing among God’s people and, therefore, responsible for how things were going. The man of God takes responsibility. When Adam fell as the first man, what aspect of his being created as a man did he deny first? What aspect of his manhood did he lose first? It was the aspect of responsibility. “The woman thou gavest me, she….” All right, when the grace of God implants in your soul zeal for God and He gives you biblical manhood, then how will it evidence itself? You will take up your responsibility before God. You will not make excuses for yourself, but you will take up your responsibility in the church, in your marriage, and in your home.
Single young men, do you have zeal for God? Do you have manhood? What are you intense about? Sports, money, car, computers, looks? Or God in you. Are you intense about that? Do you love God? Do you love Him with an undivided affection? Are you guilty of showing disregard for His church, for others, for your mother? Do you pray for purity? Do you pray for purity in yourself and in your sisters in Christ? Are you zealous for God in the face of all the pornography that seeks to gobble your soul? Do you have zeal for God in doctrine? Do you love God’s Word? Do you want the honor of His name and the truth?
Husbands, are you men of God? Do you have manhood? Do you seek the advancement of God in your wife? Do you want her to be lovely to God? In your marriage, do you live for yourself, for your happiness? If you do, you have your head on backwards. But do you see your responsibility that you are responsible for your marriage and you do not make excuses about your wife, but you are responsible? Is there a passion in your marriage for God?
Fathers, are you men of God? Do you have biblical manhood? Do you instruct your children? Are they learning from you how glorious God is? Are they learning from you how to be a husband and to lead a wife?
Is it zeal for God that comes into your life as a child? Is it zeal for God that influences you concerning your friends and what you watch and do not watch?
Biblical manhood is to have a zeal for God alone. God must give that. By the grace of God, let us go to Him. Let us confess that we are not men. We have forfeited everything. Let us confess that we are wretches, cowards. But let us pray for God to restore in us manhood in Christ and to implant in our hearts zeal for God.
Be it with a small beginning, may it be that He gives us zeal for God. Then we may live in confidence. For God says to a man of God, “He that honoreth me will I honor. I will be with you in trouble and I will honor you.”
Let us live as men of God with zeal for the glory of God.
Father in heaven, write Thy word on our hearts. In Jesus’ name, Amen.