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Before There Were Kings 5 - Moses and the Snake Pole

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Reading: Numbers 21:4-9
So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. Numbers 21:9 (NIV)

I.    Complaining Again!

      A.  On the heals of Victory

            1.   The Israelites had just won a victory over the Canaanites (vv.1-3).

                   a.   They pleaded for God’s help and got it!

            2.   We won before. Let’s do it again! (cf.20:14ff)

                   a.   Hey Moses, Hey God, let’s just trounce these selfish Edomites.

                   b.   Why do we have to go the long way.

            3.   Sometimes when we win a victory, we start to believe we deserve more.

                   a.   We did good. We deserve a little extra.

                   b.   Come on God, is this same old heavenly bread the food of victors?!

      B.  Impatient on the way

            1.   They had to go around the Edomites who wouldn’t let them through.

                   a.   God didn’t plan that His people would to go to war against their “brothers.”

                   b.   So they had to go the long way around.

            2.   They were complaining again! (Ch.19)

                   a.   Not that you or I would complain if we had to take the long way through a very hot and dry desert!

            3.   They speak against God and Moses.

                   a.   They accuse God and Moses of leading them to their deaths.

                   b.   They exaggerate their misery pretending things are worse than they are.

      C.  God’s blessings aren’t Good enough

            1.   We don’t want this heavenly food. We want regular food.

                   a.   They had more than enough bread but complain “we have no bread.”

                   b.   We don’t want food on God’s terms, but ours.

            2.   In detesting this bread from heaven, they brush off God’s grace.

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." John 6:32-35 (NIV)

            3.   If bread from heaven isn’t good enough, what will be?

II.   A Father Disciplines His Children

      A.  Snakes in the Camp

            1.   God is justly angry with these people, who always mistrust His motives and methods.

                   a.   They had complained, been punished and repented before.

                   b.   God is patient, but He is also just.

                   c.   There comes a time when justice prevails.

            2.   Now God provides something that fit their complaint — some would die in the desert.

                   a.   They get what they complain of.

                   b.   The punishment is designed to fit their crime.

            3.   God disciplines those He loves, so that they will return to him.
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:19-20 (NIV)

      B.  Recognizing they were Wrong

            1.   When they recognized their complaint against was both harsh and petty.

                   a.   We were uncomfortable and bored and said you were killing us.

                   b.   We were wrong.

            2.   One moment Moses was their enemy, the next their dearest friend.

                   a.   One moment he was plotting their destruction, the next their only hope.

                   b.   In doing so they remind us of our own humanity.

            3.   Pain and suffering have a way of focusing our attention on what really matters.

                   a.   Not all suffering is God’s discipline.

                   b.   But any suffering is as good an excuse for any to take a personal inventory.

                   c.   Suffering does remind us of what our priorities are.

      C.  Pray for us!

            1.   Take away the snakes!

                   a.   Our sin caused the snakes. We repent. Take them away.

                   b.   They’re killing us.

            2.   Moses, who suffers abuse from these people never hesitates to intercede.

                   a.   Time and time again, Moses is accused of conspiracy to kill them all.

                   b.   Time and time again, Moses stands between God’s anger and these people.

III.  Look Up!

      A.  God Doesn’t take away the snakes

            1.   Removing the sting of consequences too quickly, won’t help in the long run.

                   a.   The snakes stay (for now)

                   b.   God tell them how to get rid of the snakes.

            2.   God provides another way of deliverance.

                   a.   The antidote for the poison of the snakes is to look to God’s solution.

            3.   As they had become disgusted with God’s plan and provision, now their only hope was to trust it.

      B.  Have the people Look at the snake

            1.   Another reminder of their sin and shame.

            2.   A mere look will do.

            3.   They continue to be bitten, but they aren’t killed.

      C.  So the Son of Man must be lifted up (Jn. 3:14-15)

            1.   The snake on the pole points to Jesus.
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. John 3:14-15

            2.   All who look to him, believing that He is their salvation will get everlasting life!

                   a.   Just look to Him with a believing heart.

            3.   The payment for our impatience with God’s ways and plans is death, but God’s antidote for sin’s venom is Jesus.

                   a.   God doesn’t take away all the consequences of sin.

                   b.   He does provide a remedy.

The Bottom Line:

Look up at the Cross! Look to the One who Heals.

Red #113 The Old Rugged Cross

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