David Pawson - Numbers Pt2 (英文发音,中文字幕) 

Thoughtful Thoughts 15.3.2019 “Numbers” - Part 2;

"Moses’ answer for Israel’s snake bites."

A movie was made about snakes escaping from an aircraft cargo hold into the passenger cabin. If you saw it, you will recall the hysteria among the passengers on board. Well, that image helps us visualise what happened to the Israelites in the desert when the Israelites were inundated with a horrendous plague of snakes. So what happened?

The Problem...

Well, in Num. 21:4-9 we find the story of a plague of snakes terrorising the Israelites. After the people started dying they went to Moses to ask for forgiveness. So even without being told, they already  knew what their sin was…So what was it?

They had been speaking against the Lord and Moses - yet again. Over and over again they had been complaining about the food and water... Now the food was provided by God from His own recipe book, which provided the perfect mix of nutrients for all they needed to keep healthy, and it tasted something like honey. In English, the name for it was, “What is it?”, or in Hebrew, “Manna”. Well, their constant complaining against God, (and Moses), pushed God to the point where He eventually punished them, by giving them the fright of their lives - with snakes. It worked, and they went to Moses to beg him to ask God for forgiveness.

The Answer...

After Moses appealed to God for mercy on behalf of the people, he was told to make a bronze snake and put it up on a pole for everyone to see, and tell everyone who was bitten to look up at it.

The people probably expected God to just make the snakes drop dead. Well, instead of that, they had to actually DO something, even though it was so simple. By making the people look up at the brass serpent they would all individually experience a miracle. Only God could be behind an instant cure, without medication. They simply had to trust God that He would heal them just by appealing to His mercy. If anyone thought it was silly, they would just die of snake bite. (Compare Naaman who thought it was beneath him when Elisha told him to wash in the river Jordan when he had leprosy. See 2 Kings 5. A wise servant counselled him to do as asked - or risk not being healed. By obeying Elisha, God healed him.)

John uses the story of the brass serpent when teaching about the cross of Jesus, in John 3:14-16. Most people know John 3:16 from Sunday School, but how many noticed John’s point leading up to it, in v.14-15. The most famous verse in the Bible is preceded with John using this story of the brass serpent...“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. Thus God loved the world, giving His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him, will have eternal life”.

So John compares the brass serpent with Jesus on the cross. He makes the connection between the answer God gave the Israelites in the desert, to the answer God gives us in Jesus. Sin brought death to our door, just as sin brought death to the Israelites’ door. The answer was to trust and obey, by looking at God’s answer, requiring a simple act of faith. The answer for us is to believe in God’s answer of the cross of Jesus Christ, where He died in our place.

John is saying that the answer to our sin is as simple as the answer God had for the Israelites. When John compares the brass serpent with Jesus on the cross, he is saying Jesus already did everything. All we have to do is to look to Jesus for our  salvation. He is the author and finisher of our faith. The beginning and end. No activity on our part is wanted by God, for our salvation.

Martin Luther’s Catholic superior, Staupitz, required relics, saints, masses, priests and other man made inventions. Luther refused, so, he asked Luther, “What will you put in their place?” Martin Luther replied, “Christ. Man only needs Jesus Christ”.  

One so called ‘evangelical’ church in Auckland added a written requirement of giving 10% of their income to his church, requiring the signature of the repentant soul, as a ‘job lot’ for forgiveness, which is an absolutely totally wicked addition. Jesus whipped the people monetising the house of prayer. If your religious leader has “add-ons” for forgiveness, he is displaying as much scriptural ignorance as Staupitz, and you will have to choose between them or the Bible. It is as John pointed out, we can only ever look to Jesus Christ to be saved, just as the Israelites had to look to the brass serpent.

There’s nothing we’ve got which God needs or wants - except, of course, our hearts. God’s offer to us is to either accept His answer just as it is, without any changes, or die in our sin, as the Israelites in the desert found. It is a “take it or leave it” offer. We can’t add to it or subtract from it. And if we do nothing, we will also simply die of the snake bite of our sin. When John compares the story of the brass serpent, with Jesus death on the cross, John is saying that all we have to do, is to recognise our sinful situation, and accept God’s answer for it, as it is, without changes. If we think we can fix our problem in our own way, we think more highly of ourselves than God does. Pay attention to the Apostle John, or you’re on your own, mate! (Well, with your snake bite keeping you company, too, of course.)

I’m John Dunning and that’s “Thoughtful Thoughts” for another week.

Next week, we look at Deuteronomy. It’s only there for a week, so don’t blink, or you’ll miss it.

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