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A Heavenly Test

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Well, good evening family! It is good to see you all here at the Midweek service.
Pastor Clark & Sally say there hello’s, they miss, and they are fine, and will be back this Sunday Lord willing.
For those of you who don’t know me my name is Anthony I am the High School Pastor, I’ve been attending the barn here for quite some time now.
I have a beautiful wife that the Lord gave me who helps in what God has called me to do.
I also have 4 children 3 girls & 1 boy.
Well, let’s get right into our study for today.
if you have your bibles open to the book of Numbers, Numbers ch. 21.

Background & Overview

1. Current Study’s Background

The Historical Context of Numbers - The book of Numbers takes place at an interesting time for the nation of Israel.
The opening of this book takes place only a year after the exodus of Egypt.
Chapters 1-12 deals with the lives of the old generation that came out of Egypt.
Chapters 13-20 deal with a tragic transitional period
and the book ends with the new generation in Chapters 21-36 who end up at the doorstep of the land of Canaan.
Most of the book describes Israel’s experiences as they wander in the wilderness.
According to the Censuses recorded in the book there is a little over 2 1/2 million people.
And every time they wander around and camp in their tents they occupy several square miles.
The book records Israel’s movement from Mount Sinai to the wandering in the wilderness and then, to their arrival in Moab in the 40th year.
And the lesson is very clear: though it may be mandatory to experience wilderness times in our lives, it’s not mandatory to remain there.
For Israel, what was only an 11 mile journey turned into 40 years misery.
This book contains the records of 2 generations, two censuses, which is where it gets its title.
Numbers, the census of the first generation who came out of Egypt and the census of the new generation that grew up in the wilderness & conquered Canaan.
The Theme of Numbers - This is a book of divine discipline and shows the painful consequences of lacking faith in God.
There is an irresponsible behavior on the behalf of God’s chosen people. So the Lord disciplines them but remains faithful to His covenant promises in spite of unbelief.
This book teaches us that there are no shortcuts to God’s promises & blessings, He sometimes uses trials & tests for specific purposes.

2. Current Study’s Overview

This brings us to our study for today in Ch. 21:4-9.
Ch. 21 falls into a transitional period going from the Old generation to the New generation.
in this section you see a series of failures on the behalf of the Old Generation to Inherit the Promised Land. Read...
As you can see in our quick reading of today’s scripture, Israel once again fails to trust in the Lord because their hearts are not in the right place.
If you’re taking notes today we want to look at several things that involves Israel’s Failure.
Involves A Delay on the Way Vs. 4a
Involves Recognition of their Condition Vs. 4b-5
Involves A Divine Discipline Vs. 6-9

1. Israel’s Failure Involves a Delay on the Way Vs. 4a

So from Mount Hor the place where Aaron died they travel south back towards the Red Sea and then they go east to go around Edom so that they can then head back north towards Moab.
Now going by the Way of the Red Sea is a step backward and it was a lot of backtracking, it was a very long and meandering route.
So 3 questions come up in my mind when I read this:
Number #1: Why not continue north towards Beersheba and into the promised land? They were so close! (Pause)
In 1999 in the city of Joppa they unearthed an Egyptian gate with the name Amen-Ho-Tep III, the king of Egypt.
And I saw this with my own eyes a couple of years ago, the last time we went to Israel.
So Joppa was under the control of Egypt! So some believe the Lord took them another way to protect them.
It was probably a very heavily guarded area and a strong point.
Now, the second question is this: If they couldn’t go north why not go east through the land of Edom and then north along the dead sea and into the promise land?
Well, because the King of Edom refused Israel passage. Turn w/ me to...
Numbers 20:14–21 NKJV
14 Now Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom. “Thus says your brother Israel: ‘You know all the hardship that has befallen us, 15 how our fathers went down to Egypt, and we dwelt in Egypt a long time, and the Egyptians afflicted us and our fathers. 16 When we cried out to the Lord, He heard our voice and sent the Angel and brought us up out of Egypt; now here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your border. 17 Please let us pass through your country. We will not pass through fields or vineyards, nor will we drink water from wells; we will go along the King’s Highway; we will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.’ ” 18 Then Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through my land, lest I come out against you with the sword.” 19 So the children of Israel said to him, “We will go by the Highway, and if I or my livestock drink any of your water, then I will pay for it; let me only pass through on foot, nothing more.” 20 Then he said, “You shall not pass through.” So Edom came out against them with many men and with a strong hand. 21 Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory; so Israel turned away from him.
So they couldn’t go north and they couldn’t go directly east through Edom, so they had to take a detour and back track around edom and into Moab.
So we understand practically and strategically why they couldn’t go north and through the land of Edom.
But, why not spiritually? My third question is a theological question: Why, God?
Has anyone here ever asked the Lord? Or am I the only one here?
Lord isn’t it your will for us to enter the promised land that is literally right over there?
Lord you promised us that you would give us the land of milk and honey.
It’s literally right there, God why not just give it to us, why are you allowing these detours, why is there a delay? why are you closing these doors?
Lord you said… Your Word says this...
Proverbs 16:9 NKJV
9 A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.
Psalm 37:23 NKJV
23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way.
Psalm 139:3 NKJV
3 You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways.

1. Israel’s Failure Involves a Delay on the Way Vs. 4a

APPLICATION: Understand God is very well acquainted with our journey. And He understands what is best for us.
Now for the case of the Israelites it was to test them to see what was in their hearts. Turn w/ me to...
Deuteronomy 8:1–2 NKJV
1 “Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers. 2 And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.
Why did God add detours & a delay to the journey? To humble them, to test them, to see what was in their heart if they would obey or not.
APPLICATION: You know, many times we foolishly gauge God’s will in our lives by the ease of the journey. Instead of just being flexible with the Lord and trusting in Him.
Allowing Him to direct our path even when it doesn’t make sense.
Allowing Him to humble us so that we can correct what is in our hearts so that we can obey Him.
Last time I checked, the Bible says...
Proverbs 3:5–6 NKJV
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

2. Israel’s Failure Involves Recognition of their Condition Vs. 4b-5

There is two things we want to recognize as it pertains to their condition...

2.1 The Condition of their Soul Vs. 4b

So the soul of the people became discouraged at the change of plans, they were not flexible with the leading of God.
Discouraged Hebrew - It speaks of being short or impatient.
The were discouraged because they were impatient towards God and His plans.
APPLICATION: You know, sometimes we Christians can be in a hurry to reach God’s plan for our lives. Even when it comes to heaven, sometimes we say Lord just come get us now.
ILLUSTRATION: I remember one day my 4 yr old son Jonah tells me, “Daddy, I want to die”. And I’m like what!? Noooo, I don’t want you to die!
And he’s like, “Well! I want to be with Jesus! You don’t want to be with Jesus!???
I had to correct some of his doctrinal beliefs already.
19th-Century Preacher A.B. Simpson Quote: “Beloved, have you every thought that someday you will not have anything to try you, or anyone to vex you again? There will be no opportunity in heaven to learn or to show the spirit of patience, forbearance, and longsuffering. If you are to practice these things it must be now”
Understand that this life will give us many opportunities to learn patience and we shouldn’t waste those opportunities.
Because God’s greatest gifts often times come slowly.
And sometimes we know that to be true, and we have faith that the Lord will accomplish His promises.
And we know, 2 Cor 1:20 says all of His promises are yes and Amen!
But even the best of us sometimes grow discouraged and worried because the results do not come when we want.
The Apostle Paul was a good example of this. The Lord gave him a heart to go to Rome.
And after his 3rd missionary journey he heads to Rome but wants to go to Jerusalem first in Acts 21.
It was there where God allows a delay, he gets arrested and he gets the run around for years.
Paul had time to realize the need for patience as he lay there in prison.
APPLICATION: Understand, God wants us to experience victory and His blessings, but God is first concerned with our character & growth.
James 1:2–3 NKJV
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
God will withhold His blessings until we learn patience. And He teaches us this through the discipline of delay in our lives.
So that is the condition of their soul, let’s now recognize the condition of their heart...

2.2 The Condition of their Heart Vs. 5

So here we see the condition of their heart, they spoke out against God and Moses.
According to Matthew 12:34
They spoke out against God & Moses why? Because their hearts were against God’s plans.
In fact, Stephen the Martyr confirms this...
Acts 7:39 NKJV
39 whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected. And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt,
The reason the Israelites were impatient and discouraged was because they had a heart problem.
APPLICATION: And guess what? Unfortunately, we do too.
Jeremiah 17:9 NKJV
9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
Mark 7:21–23 NKJV
21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
When we notice that we are discouraged or impatient we should check our hearts. To see if we are aligned with God’s heart.
God wants a person after His own heart His own desires.
And for us Christians this is why we need to be in the Word of God constantly seeking God and His wisdom.
Hebrews 4:12 NKJV
12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
What’s interesting about this section, is that God knew Israel would respond in this ungrateful manner.
Numbers 11:18-20
God was providing for their need in spite of their ungrateful heart of unbelief.
Understand God will always provide what we NEED not what we WANT.
Matthew 6:25-34

3. Israel’s Failure Involves a Divine Discipline Vs. 6-9

3.1 God Sent Fiery Serpents Vs. 6-7

So because of Israel’s condition of coming against God and them being impatient, God sent fiery serpents. (pause)
Understand this...
“WHEN WE CRY WITHOUT A CAUSE, GOD WILL GIVE US A CAUSE TO CRY”
Because of Israel’s condition they were ungrateful and were complaining and their hearts were against God & Moses.
You know, this is a really important reminder for all of us here. In fact in...
1 Corinthians 10:11 NKJV
11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
We’re told that these things happened to them as examples and they were written to instruct us, it was for our admonition.
The Apostle Paul specifically alludes to this story and he gives us a little more details on what was going on...
1 Corinthians 10:9 NKJV
9 nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents;
Paul writes that they were destroyed by serpents because they tempted God.
This Word tempt here in 1 Corinthians it means to Test. Israel was complaining, crying, they spoke out against God, in other words they were questioning God, Tempting God, They were Testing Him. (Pause)
APPLICATION: And you know, who are we to put God to the Test?
When we test God when we question God, we are in essence saying we know better.
ILLUSTRATION: In school, it is the teacher who gives the student the test. Not the other way around.
Understand, God gave the nation of Israel the rubric. They knew what they needed to do.
Look, in Genesis God Chose His people, in Exodus God Redeemed His people, in Leviticus God Sanctified His people.
Leviticus is where God describes Worship to his people, Here in the book of Number is where God tests His people. In fact...
Hebrews 4:2 NKJV
2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.
But they lacked faith...
Listen IDK what you guys are going through but God does. And maybe it is test? (Pause)
You know what my favorite kinds of tests are? Open book tests...
We get the answers from the Bible but we need to apply it.
The Bible says walk by faith, it doesn’t say sit by faith.
Hebrews 11:6 NKJV
6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Which is a good Segway for the last two verses..

3.2 God’s Deliverance Vs. 8-9

So notice, God doesn’t take away the snakes but He does provide. In very unusual waY...
God tells Moses to make a bronze serpent!!?? And put it on pole!? What!?
And All we have to do is look at it and we will live???
God what are you doing here? That doesn’t really make any sense.
And if I think about it more, it kinda looks like an Idol? I don’t know about this?
Exodus 20:4 NKJV
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;
The nation of Israel already had the commandment to not make a graven image? They must have been confused!
Put yourself in their situation, in Moses’ situation, they already had the command of not making any graven image.
They didn’t have the NT to clarify what this meant. God we don’t get it! (Pause)
That’s the point, this bronze serpent is a picture of Faith. Understand that...
Faith in God does not cause us to ABSTAIN but to SUSTAIN. Faith in God does not cause us to COMPLAIN but to MAINTAIN, even when God does not EXPLAIN.
Obviously, this wasn’t meant to be an Idol. In fact, King Hezekiah destroyed this bronze serpent because Israel turned it into an idol.
2 Kings 18:1 NKJV
1 Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea the son of Elah, king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign.
2 Kings 18:2 NKJV
2 He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah.
2 Kings 18:3 NKJV
3 And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done.
2 Kings 18:4 NKJV
4 He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan.
You see looking to the bronze serpent on the pole to save you from death took faith
And we get the answer from Jesus in the NT when he is talking to Nicodemus in...
John 3:14–15 NKJV
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
Pointing out the fact that getting into heaven is not based on good works or good deeds, but by faith alone.
And what’s interesting is that the solution was not taking the snakes away, the solution was a remedy, a cure.
APPLICATION: Problem is we’ve all been bit by the serpent of sin…    &      the only cure is faith in Jesus Christ
As we put our faith in Jesus Christ we too can defeat death…     &       be saved…
And notice, the snake is sin which brings death…  so why is there a snake on the pole representing Christ.
Because when Jesus died on the cross He became the embodiment of sin…  
1 Peter 2:24 NKJV
24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.
2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV
21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
So don’t give up! God has more blessings, more plans, for you. The questions for us is, do you have faith?
Do you have faith in Jesus Christ...
ENDING.....
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