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How Much? This Much!

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Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations 1940 Loving—Whether Good or Bad

1940 Loving—Whether Good Or Bad

Mark Guy Pearse used to tell of the time he overheard one of his children admonishing the other, “You must be good or Father won’t love you.”

Calling the boy to him he said, “Son, that isn’t really true.”

“But you won’t love us if we are bad, will you?” the boy asked.

“Yes, I will love you whether you are good or bad,” Pearse explained. “But there will be a difference in my love. When you are good I will love you with a love that makes me glad; and when you are not good I will love you with a love that hurts me.”

Blessed Lord, You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. Grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and take them to heart that, by the patience and comfort of Your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life. … through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Numbers 21:4–9 ESV
From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And 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 loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 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.
Aaron had just died, God’s judgment upon him for his part at Meribah, when the children of Israel murmured against God because they lacked water () ()
Numbers 20:10–13 ESV
Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and through them he showed himself holy.
Numbers 20:23–26 ESV
And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron at Mount Hor, on the border of the land of Edom, “Let Aaron be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter the land that I have given to the people of Israel, because you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah. Take Aaron and Eleazar his son and bring them up to Mount Hor. And strip Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son. And Aaron shall be gathered to his people and shall die there.”
Numbers 20:10–13 ESV
Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and through them he showed himself holy.
After 30 days of mourning, and a successful battle with the Canaanite king of Arad, Israel departs Mount Hor, and again they complain against God regarding His love for them, saying that He was failing to provide for them. God responded to this rebellion with a judgment of fiery, poisonous serpents, whose bite was fatal.
Our response to God’s righteous judgments
Rejection
Repentance
The Children of Israel repented, asking Moses to intercede for them. In response, God directs Moses to make a Bronze serpent and place it upon a pole. Whoever looked upon it would be delivered from the effects of the venom. The means of grace provided by God did not remove the serpents, but it did block the impact of their bite.
Ap IV:86 Since we receive the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation on account of Christ by faith alone, faith alone justifies. This is because those who are reconciled are regarded as righteous and children of God, not on account of their own purity, but through mercy on account of Christ, as long as they take hold of this mercy by faith.
Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 135.
The Children of Israel sinned repeatedly against God in this way. When we complain rather than praise God in the midst of the cares of this life, we follow in their footsteps. We do this out of our weakness, out of our pain, but most importantly, out of our sin. God could leave us in our foolish state, but in His stern kindness God leads us to repentance, if we don’t harden ourselves against it.
Romans 2:4–5 ESV
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
Jesus looks back to that day of judgment to teach Nicodemus the reason why He had come:
John 3:14–17 ESV
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. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
What Jesus said that night to Nicodemus, He also says to us through the preaching of the Gospel and the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. Both of these sacraments speak to the death of Christ “for you.” Both present Christ coming to us to save us. and both show us how Christ identified both with us and with the judgment that we had received because of sin.
the Bronze Serpent - the Crucified Lord
John 3:18–19 ESV
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
This passage speaks of something called ἡ κρίσις - the crisis. It is that moment when we must choose between light and darkness, between the love of God and the love of the world. That light does not lead to the Gospel, it is the Gospel, for it is Christ. Christ comes to us, high and lifted up, and we must choose to either look upon Him and live, in the midst of this fallen creation, or look away and die.
Being in the church house on Sunday is only part of that. Here, we remind you and refresh you with God’s promises, “which are yes and Amen in Christ.” If you leave those promises here, instead of taking them with you in to the world, they will do you no good, in fact, those words of comfort will be the witnesses at your condemnation on the last day.
Some ask, “why so many churches?” I ask, “why so much sin?”
Why, in the face of God’s clear love for us in the face of Christ, do we hate one another so much that we treat each other like prey rather than brothers and sisters for whom we pray? Why do we seek our own pleasure rather than our neighbor’s good? Why do we seek to be served rather than to serve? This is not what Christ did - instead, He gave His life as a ransom for many.
Look on Him and live. Be strengthened to live in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death, to live as lights in the midst of darkness. To make peace instead of sow seeds of destruction.

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