This story is another story of Israel sinning, it seems to be a very common theme!
Num 25:1-3 And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.
Here we see the children of Israel involved in direct disobedience. The Lord had commanded the children of Israel to have no other gods, to make no graven images of any other gods, and to worship no other gods (Ex 20:2-6). Yet here we see the children of Israel doing exactly what they were not suppose to do! They were eating and bowing down to Baalpeor, and they had joined themselves to this false god. Understandably, the Lord was angry with the children of Israel.
Num 25:4-5 And the LORD said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel. And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baalpeor.
The Lord had a severe punishment for those that had disobeyed and followed after Baalpeor-the consequence was death. The following verses tell us that a plague was sent by the Lord unto the children of Israel.
Num 25:6-9 And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand; And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel. And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand.
This part of the story depicts a rather graphic scene. One of the Israelites, flaunts his sin while others are at the tabernacle weeping, by bringing a Midianitish woman into the camp were everyone can see. When Phinehas saw what was going on he got up and grabbed a javelin. He followed the man into the tent and with the javelin killed both the Israelite and Midianite. With the death of this man and woman the plague that was killing the children of Israel was stopped. The death toll was staggering--24,000 Israelites died because of their sin.
The Lord punished the children of Israel severely for their direct disobedience. What about us? Do we punish our children for their direct disobedience, or are we guilty of letting it slide? In this instance, the Lord punished His people with no mercy, in fact the consequences ceased only when the sin was stopped by Phinehas. The Bible does tell us that weeping was going on; in verse 6 we see the children of Israel in front of the tabernacle weeping! It wasn't the weeping that stopped the punishment, it was the removal of sin.