Faithlife Sermons

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Lent  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:04:19
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The Brazen Serpent

There’s some speculation about this painting from 1620 about whether or not it’s a Rembrandt or a Van Dyck. It’s an odd painting for a few reasons.
The two dudes on the left- presumably one is Moses but who is the other? Remember Aaron just died a chapter ago.
The snakes are falling from the sky like a bad Indiana Jones movie
The dude in the middle, in red, appears fine but is looking away
Still others are wrestling with the serpents, including one random hand off the top right.
Lastly, the few that are looking at the serpent appear the most wounded
This painting does seem to expose our present reality.
In this time of Covid we cannot see the face of our helper.
Bad news seems to come from the sky, beneath and all around
Some people appear fine for no reason
Many of us only can fixate on the task at hand (the snake in our hands)
Finally, looking to God’s providence doesn’t seem to fix our immediate problems!

The Numbers Story

First- we can all agree it should be called Ba-Midbar (In the wilderness). You just moved from math class to camping class.
Numbers 21:4 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.
We’re not sure where mt. hor is- two locations about 100 miles away from Jerusalem (South or SE of Jerusalem)
they became impatient (literally they wanted a shortcut through the wilderness)
Numbers 21:5 ESV
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.”
Hyperbole abounds. There is no food! We loath this worthless food - What is the food they’re eating? (Manna)
Literally the bread from heaven! They are despising the gifts of God.
Numbers 21:6 ESV
Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.
This is the kind of justice I think we all want as long as it’s not against us.
We’re not sure if the fire is on the serpents or their bite or their color.
In the next verse the people then repent- wisely.
Then the Lord sends salvation
Numbers 21:9 ESV
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.
Most church fathers agree that this serpent on a pole made a cross
I think what is more practically amazing is that if you’re bit by a snake and you fall down and the highest point around you is salvation you cannot help but be saved.

What did we learn?

Pain exists inside the church and outside
God may cause incredible pain.
Joining the church is not a cruise, it is suffering in the direction of hope.
Eugene Peterson wrote a book: A long obedience in the same direction.
“There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.”
God alone brings eternal life. - This is our focus for today.

The Gospel Story

John 3:1–2 ESV
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”
Jesus points out that the greatest sign will be His own death and resurrection:
John 3:14 ESV
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
Sounds good right? But wait there’s more:
John 3:15 ESV
that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
Now salvation is turned from seeing to believing. You don’t even have to see Christ to be saved. The bar has been lowered. Or has it?
Presumably someone was bit in Numbers- probably a guy named Matt and he said - look at a snake on a pole. That’s dumb. NO WAY will that save me.
Saving Faith always leads to action.
Ephesians 2:10 ESV
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Jesus trusted that His Father would raise him from the dead so His action was to go to the cross. If you want to really live believe in the resurrection of Christ.
Really put it all on the line. Make a wager that you’ll live eternally.
This last week after Nat and I had paid all of our bills, the next day our dryer broke. I diagnosed it and we had some thoughts and then we remembered. We’ve got that stimulus check coming. We hauled off and bought a new Washer and Dryer! This was before the bill was signed. Trust led to action.
There is a subtle warning for us in this story- it matters what you and I trust in.
The OT Story of the brazen serpent is a fine story of God’s promise and our trust in it. But, if you own a study bible with any cross references in it at all you’ll see a little note that tells you to look at 2 Kings Chapter 18.
Normally we see the book of Kings and think - bugh - Numbers. NOPE.
It’s a great book. 2 Kings 18 is about Hezekiah in Judah.
Kings always tells you up front if a king is good or bad. How many good kings did they have in the northern Kingdom, Israel? NONE
2 Kings 18:4 ESV
He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan).
This object that pointed to the promise of life had become an IDOL!!!
LOOK AROUND YOU. This is still happening:
Fauci Ouchie - Good. Will not save me. (Science is thinking God’s thoughts after him - keplar) I LOVE Science.
What happens at the next virus or disease?
Humira (I know at some point it will quit working)
We do it with church, I’m looking for a service that feeds me.
Guitars, Organ, choir, stained glass, no projectors, smoke machines.
Friendo - it was never about you. It was always about Jesus. They should always talk about Jesus.
Friends it matters who we ultimately look to and how we look at them. In a word we need to look past the Penultimate to the Ultimate.
In the gospel of John, chapter 9 Jesus heals a blind man. Now by definition this man has never seen Jesus.
Jesus spits on the ground makes mud and tells the man to wash. The man is healed.
Was it the mud? Was it the pool of Siloam? Those are the penultimate. Christians are people who look to Christ.
It is only Christ who comes from on High into our field of view and returns us to sit with Him.
Ephesians 2:4–6 ESV
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
May you trust in Christ in all things. Amen.
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