The Snakes

The Essential Jesus Day 13

Previews of a savior: The Snakes

PRAY:  Almighty God, thank you for choosing me.  Help me to be obedient to you.  Guide my words and direct my steps.  Strip away my pride and help me to stay focused on you.  Amen

READ: Numbers 21:4-9

REFLECT: I saw a ghastly movie on the SyFy channel not too long ago.  I think it was called “Snakes on a Submarine.”  I may be wrong about the title, but I bet you know what the plot was about!   Poor special effects.  Poor acting.  Poor storyline.  I laughed!  Today’s’ reading isn’t so funny.  Sin has its consequences.

As you recall from our previous readings, God led Israel out of Egypt so he could give them the Promised Land.  God is fulfilling his promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  When they arrive, they send twelve spies across the Jordan to check it out.  Sure enough, the spies report that the Promised Land is overflowing with milk and honey!  Ten of the spies also warn that the land is filled with mighty warriors and discourage the people from entering.  But two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, urge the people to cross over the Jordan and enter, for God had pledged them this land and promised to protect them.  What would you do?  Enter or leave?  Would you obey God and enter the Promised Land?  The Israelites were too afraid and refused to enter.  God was angry at their faithlessness and decreed that Israel would wander in the desert for forty years until everyone who refused to obey had died.

Today’s reading takes place near the end of the forty years.  Moses, along with Joshua and Caleb, begin to lead them back to the Promised Land.  But like their parents before them, they begin to doubt, to grumble and to complain.  If only we had died!  Why did you bring us here?  We were better off as slaves in Egypt!

They prefer to be dead.  So God grants them their wish.  He sends venomous snakes into the camps to kill those who fail to trust God and disobey him.  Better watch out what you wish for!

Many people are bitten and die.  So the people run to Moses and repent, confessing their sinfulness.  Moses begs God to show mercy.  He tells Moses to make a bronze serpent and place it on a pole.  Anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.

“Look up! Look up and be saved!”

The serpent on the pole was the visible sign of sin and its consequences for the Israelites.  They were forced to look at their sin.  It was killing them.  God didn’t make the snakes go away.  He made the people deal with their sinfulness.  And he gave them a way to be saved.

Jesus lifted up on the cross is the visible sign of sin and its consequences for all of us (John 3:14-15).  We are forced to look at our sin.  It is killing us!  When you look up, you will see your sin.  Look at what your sin does.  Your sin killed the Son of God.  Do you dare to look at your sin?  Your sin is killing you.  Look at what’s killing you and Jesus will meet you there and give you life.  He will meet you in your emptiness, despair, dying, loneliness, fear, anger, selfishness, sin….  When you look up, you will meet Jesus.

The sin of the world is nailed on the cross.  The cross reveals the depth of God’s love for the whole world.  Not just Jews.  Not just Christians.  The whole world.  Even sinners like you.  Jesus died to carry out the life giving word of God.  Jesus was lifted up so that everyone who believed may have eternal life.

“Look up! Look at Jesus and be saved!”

APPLY: Look up at the cross.  What is killing you?  Look at it hard.  Why is it hard to look at your own sinfulness?  Is it easier to look at the sinfulness of others?  What is the consequence of your sin?  Look up! Look up and be saved!

PRAY: Jesus, you died because of my sins.  I killed you.  Meet me in my pain and sinfulness.  Please forgive me and save me.  I look to you alone for my salvation.  Amen.


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