Look on the Lord and Live
During this Season of Lent we are reflecting upon the wilderness experience. In typical Gospel of Mark, which is like a quickly moving short story, we are told that the Spirit of God drove Jesus into the wilderness. Angels ministered to him there. The serpent was also there to temp Jesus.
The children of Israel under Moses also had an encounter with serpents in the wilderness. In today’s Old Testament scripture we read:
From Mount Hor the Israelites set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live. (Numbers 21:4-9)
The children of Israel sinned against God. This rebellion is what brought on the serpents. Many Israelites died when bitten by these serpents. God, however, in his mercy, provided an escape from the punishment of their sin.
Today’s reading from the Gospel of John gives an explanation of the serpent in the wilderness experience:
Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-16)
God has provided a means of escape from the punishment of our sins, just as he did for the Israelites in the wilderness. We simply have to believe that he has. The Apostle Paul further explains:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God– not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Why would anyone choose not to believe? Maybe it is because people do not know that they are in the wilderness and they are not aware of the many serpents which have infested our culture. The children of Israel were very much aware that they had sinned and that they were dying. In desperation they followed the commandment of Moses to look upon the bronze serpent.
We must look upon the cross of Jesus. But are we desperate? Do we realize that our entertainment industry, popular music, movies, TV shows, and cultural norms are ruled by Satan. Abortion for convenience is perfectly acceptable. It is normal now not to have prayer in your schools. In fact, it is considered even in bad taste to have traditions and values taught in our schools. And what about our churches? Do we find any serpents there? Have they invaded our seminaries? How about our Board meetings? How about our theologies? Do the seeker churches say we all serve the same god, no matter what our religion might be?
The psalmist reminds us that God has shown us mercy:
He sent forth his word and healed them
and saved them from the grave.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his mercy
and the wonders he does for his children.
Let them offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and tell of his acts with shouts of joy. (Psalm 107:20-22)
Are we ready as a people once again to give thanks to call? Can we look upon the old rugged cross? Of are we just too busy with the cares and culture of this world? This world has been corrupted. Perhaps it is time, while we still have time, to separate ourselves from this world. It is quickly passing away before our very eyes.