Wednesday, March 29, 2000

Mid-week Lent 4

Midweek Lenten Service 4 
March 29, 2000
Numbers 21:4-9

The Attitude of Believing 
Saved By Sight

INTRODUCTION:  Our lesson for today gives the ingredients of a people’s fall and their restoration.  It all happened by the grace of God.  Our lesson is not merely the pattern for a nation; but it also serves as a model for an individual.

True, we may be tempted to look down our nose at the children of Israel and think to ourselves that we would never fall for such a pitiful attitude as Israel. But if we would be honest with ourselves we might find a lot in common with these restless folk.  If the truth were known the children of Israel haven't quit cornered the market on complaining against God…it keeps happening all the time!  Thanks be to God that He always restores us as His people.  In contrast to man’s impatience, we have the amazing patience of God with sinful humanity. That's what we see in this amazing story of God's people.

 Today, let's consider the pattern of man’s fall and his restoration.

1.      Sin – impatience and rebellion v. 5 "And the people spoke against God and against Moses. 'Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? There is no bread, neither is there any water and our souls loathe this light bread'."

Under Moses the children of Israel left the comforts and the conveniences and the luxury of Egypt.  Although they were slaves, conditions were not half bad compared with the hardships of wilderness living, or so they thought.  They soon forgot about their sufferings, the hard service, and the oppression that they felt under the yoke of oppression. Yet, that was all soon forgotten once they encountered life in the open wilderness.

They complained about the food, they got tired of eating the same food month after month and cried to Moses "if only we had died in Egypt!" Their sin was their complaining, which not necessarily pointed at Moses, it was directed at God. Their complaining insinuated that they deserved something better, in effect they questioned the sovereignty and the providence of God. This showed a lack of faith and confidence in God, which is at the heart of sin. They could no longer trust the promise of life in a Promised Land.  When we complain, or show lack of respect for God we are doing one in the same thing. We are showing a lack of faith and confidence in God our provider. We are demonstrating a lack of confidence in Him who has given us a much better promise and a much better Promised Land. In this season of Lent we are called to return back to the Savior who has promised to direct and sustain us. His providence will surly lead us.

2.      Suffering – snakes of punishment v. 6 "And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people; and many died."

It was a serpent that beguiled the human race way back in the Garden of Eden. Likewise, it is a serpent, which inflicts the children of Israel as punishment for their sin of rebellion. This should not surprise us.  The Scriptures clearly remind us that "the wages of sin is death".  But the passage goes on to say "but the free gift of God is eternal life".  By a serpent death came to the children of Israel. But by a serpent risen up on a pole came life.

As strange as the command must have appeared all those who looked in faith to the raised brazen serpent were spared. Likewise, at the cross, the Son of God, Jesus Christ was raised up, and all who looked to Him in faith are spared of a far more serious and most lethal  and fatal sickness…that is the sickness of sin. And as we know with this sickness the condition is always terminal! As by one-man sin entered the world, so likewise, by one man came life everlasting. Jesus came to bring life and immortality to light through the gospel.  "Today Thy mercy calls us to wash away our sin" the old, old, hymn reminds us. In faith turn to Him to live!

3.      Salvation – confession, prayer, deliverance. vv. 7-9 "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…The Lord said unto Moses, 'Make a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole; and it shall be that every one that is  bitten, when he looks upon it, shall live'. Moses made a serpent of brass and put it upon a pole; and it came to pass that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived."

The healing of forgiveness comes simply in a look at the upraised serpent and at the cross. True, preceding the look was a confession of sin and a request for prayer to be relieved of the punishment - the two go hand in hand - you can't have one without the other! You can't have absolution without first having confession and without one you can't have the other!

The people were saved when they looked at the snake on the standard. People today are redeemed from sin when they look in faith to the cross. Just a look is all it takes - that is, if it is the look of faith.  This is what this week's emphasis of Lent is all about. Lent is an attitude of  believing. We are made right with God; we are healed of our brokenness with God; we are forgiven our sin by simply look to God for mercy. By grace, and grace alone we are save through Jesus Christ our Savior.

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