Therefore say, 'Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace, and it shall be to him and to his descendants after him the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the people of Israel.'"
God confirmed the Aaronic priesthood without reservation due to the actions of Aaron’s son Phineas in the matter of ending Israel’s flirtation with Moab’s Baal worship at Peor. This is not an easy account to read. Moab quietly seduced Israel into idolatry. It began as sort of a “cultural exchange” where Israel was invited to participate in feasts. It quickly progressed into idolatry with Baal worship that included prostitution. It got dirty and nasty really fast and Israel was caught in the trap. It ended with 24,000 dead in the camp by judgment of God with a plague. As Israel wept over her sin, a man flagrantly brought a Moabite temple whore into his tent. Phineas made the bold move to strike down these last two sinful idolaters to stave off a relapse.
It was this bold faith and action of the priest that led to God’s recognition and reward. God saw Phineas as possessing His feelings on the matter. And that is what made the difference. It saved the day for the entire nation because it prevented a second episode of idolatry and unfaithfulness. Sometimes having God’s heart means we are serious about sin in ourselves and in His people. And we will not sit around and watch God’s worship being defiled.
Two quick final observations: 1) Sin can be a slippery slope experience. Once you take a small step a really big fall can happen. What starts as a small choice can quickly become out of control until you are consumed by a driving passion. That is exactly what happened with Israel in this episode. They “met their neighbors” only to quickly be caught up in the exhilaration of a sexually driven false religion that made them forget their God and all He had done for their deliverance. 2) God will reward obedience when we are filled with His heart on the matter. It wasn’t that Phineas got mad that made the difference. It was that His outrage was God’s hurt heart on this matter and it led him to complete obedience for Israel. That was what God chose to reward with this covenant for the Aaronic priesthood.