Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Way of the Cross (8)

The children of Israel are on their way through the wilderness - taking the long, windy, circuitous route because of their disobedience. Along the way, they complain (although not for the first time) about having no food, no water, and the food they have is worthless (which makes a mockery of their first point...).

God sends a judgement on them on fiery serpents, who proceeded to find plenty of food in the wilderness - biting the humans, 'so that many people of Israel died.' (Numbers 21:6). Just as God will judge all eternally, so he can also bring forward that judgement temporally, using many forms of judgement.

The people are convicted of their sin, so let's see what happens next:

And the people came to Moses and said, "We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us." So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live." So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. (Numbers 21:7-9)

The people ask that the discipline of the LORD be removed, but instead, God provides healing and salvation through the serpents, and the bronze serpent in particular. It's found in the badge of many ambulance services across the world, because of the healing described.

For healing, for salvation, the promise was simple - look and live. To look at the symbol of the problem, raised up high on a pole, and believe God's promise, is to find salvation. Can you imagine someone being bitten, but refusing to look at the bronze serpent, even when friends and family urge them? It would be a pointless death, a sad and sorry avoidable stupidity. Salvation is right there - just look and live.

No wonder, then, that when the Lord Jesus spoke of himself, he used this incident to talk of his cross, and the healing that flows from it:

And 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. (John 3:15)

There's a direct correlation - the serpent was lifted so that those facing certain death could look and live; Jesus was lifted up on the cross so that those facing eternal death could look (believe) and have eternal life. The promise is there - whoever - and the promise is certain, eternal life. Look, and live.

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