Faithlife Sermons

A Better Covenant Foreshadowed

2021 Lenten Covenant Series  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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Tracing through the covenants to the cross

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 For Sunday breakfast, Dad asked Mom for 2 eggs: one fried, one scrambled. Without a word, Mom cooked each egg the way he asked. As he read the funnies, she quietly set the plate in front of him. He looked up & groaned. "Oh, no! You fried the wrong egg." After church, Mom, Dad, Junior, Sis, & Gramma headed home. Dad fussed, "The sermon was too long. Worse, it was boring." Mom complained, too. "That pianist was WAY too loud." Sis added, "The soloist was off key, too. And Gramma? "What sermon? I couldn't hear it." But Junior was cheerful. "You gotta admit-it was a pretty good show for a nickel." When they sat down to Sunday brunch, Dad thanked God for the food. But during the meal, he complained about the biscuits, coffee, & omelet. Junior asked, "Do you think God heard your blessing?" Dad was confident. "Of course!" So, Junior asked, "Do you think God heard what you said about the biscuits, coffee, & omelet?" Dad wasn't as confident now. "I think so." Junior concluded, "Which do you think God believed? Have we ever found ourselves complaining? It seems like human nature means complaining. When did it start? Ge 2:12-13. Adam complained, 12 "The woman you put here with me-she gave me fruit from the tree & I ate it." And Eve complained, 13"The serpent deceived me, & I ate." Their complaining was blame-shifting. But people have been grumbling & complaining ever since. The weather is too hot. Too cold. Too snowy. Not snowy enough. Too windy. No breeze. Israel complained, too, ever since they left Egypt. It got them 40 years of wandering. That time is nearly up, & they're near Canaan. In Nu 20:20-21, Edom refused to let them go through their territory. <map> They must go around. In Nu 20:22-24,29, they 22set out from Kadesh & came to Mt Hor. There, 29Aaron died. 29Israel mourned for 30 days. They continue around Eden. In Nu 21:1, the Canaanite king of Arad heard Israel was coming, attacked, & captured some." It's on! In Nu 21:3, Israel completely destroyed them. It's their 1st victory over people in Canaan. Our verses pick up the story. Let's look at Nu 21:4-9. 4aThey traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. <same map> After so long in the desert, they came so near the land of milk & honey. They tasted victory. Now, back toward the Red Sea, into the Arabah! 4bPeople grew impatient. No wonder! It's a horrible desert. They've had it. 5aThey spoke against God & Moses. "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert?" Loose sandy soil, separated by drifts of rock & granite. The odd, awful sandstorm blowing up from the Red Sea into their faces. 5b"There's no bread! No water! And we detest this miserable manna!" After ~40 years, they're sick of it! It's easy to understand why they grumbled. (Again.) But their parents got sent to the woodshed for grumbling. After 40 yr, don't they learn? God was listening. He always hears us. (Should that comfort us? Or scare us?) 6aThe Lord sent venomous snakes among them. Why poisonous snakes? God had several lessons. For them, & us. For one, grumbling against God's provision is rebellion. Sin. And God judges all sin. 6bThe snakes bit the Israelites. Many died. What's God teaching? Sin bites us like a poisonous snake. Sin is rebellion. It inflicts a terrible wound in our souls, just as a poisonous snake inflict a terrible wound in our bodies. Those wounds need healing, urgently. As soon as possible. The Israelites realized their need. And they did what we should. Go to the one we sinned against. Quickly. Why? The longer we wait, the harsher the discipline. 7aThey came to Moses. Go to the one we sinned against. And confess. 7b"We sinned when we spoke against the Lord & you." Then, pray for mercy. 7b"Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us." Only after we confess, can we hope for mercy. The Lord is full of grace & mercy. They've confessed. They've gone to Moses. And he knew what we know. The Lord forgives us as we forgive others. 7cMoses prayed for them. 8aThe Lord spoke to Moses. "Make a snake & put it up on a pole." This sounds odd. But the OT sacrificial system is based on a principle. Death brings life. Animals die so sinners can live. So, God uses the dead image of the serpent that causes death to bring life! It's one of God's turnarounds. Besides, by using a serpent God points back to original sin in Eden. Sin then & now has the same root: rebellion. Israel rebels now as they yearn for what they "thought" they had in Egypt. However, the cobra in Pharaoh's crown, a fiery serpent, symbolized Egypt's power. And God is reminding Israel. They're free of Pharaoh. Do they really want to be subject to the serpent's power again? No! So, once bitten, how can they live? Touch the image? No! 8b"Anyone bitten can look at it & live." This is new. Up to now, getting rid of sin required a touching. Touch the scapegoat to transfer sin to it. Touch people or things with blood via a hyssop "brush" to cleanse them. This is different! All it'll take? Lift up the snake image. Then, just look at it! And live?!? That'll take faith! It'll take faith for Moses, too, to facilitate this crazy scheme! 9aMoses made a bronze snake & put it up on a pole. He has faith. 9bThen when anyone was bitten by a snake & looked at the bronze snake, he lived. Each time someone looked up in faith, they were saved. And this is the last time on their trek to the Promised Land that Scripture says they complained. They did learn to trust God instead of complaining. (Can we?) Here's the thing. Complaining & Grumbling are the same thing. Both are rebellion against God. How so? Who provided whatever it is we're grumbling about? Exactly: God. We're rebelling against His provision for us. We think it's only ingratitude. But let's call it what it is: rebellion. And God will judge rebellious sin. In fact, He already did. He did so on the cross. If we cling to rebellious sin, we'll be destroyed, along with sin. God will eradicate it. What helps us remember not to go back to sin? Consequences. God doesn't often remove the consequences of our sin. For Israel, God didn't remove the snakes. Sin's consequences remained with them. They still got bitten. They still felt the fiery poison, the consequence of their sin. What did God provide? Salvation. God saved all who trusted Him enough to up at the bronze snake. One more thing. Look at Jn 3:14-15, as Jesus speaks to Nicodemus. 14Moses lifted up the snake in the desert. Just so, the Son of Man must be lifted up. Why? 15So everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. Jesus says there's one more lesson taught by that bronze snake in the desert. To live, people had to look up in faith. Did Moses know the bronze snake foreshadowed a better covenant? I doubt it. 800 some years later, God did make a better covenant. On Christ's sacrificed body. All who look to Him in faith will be saved. No matter how long we study, we'll never completely understand God's salvation. But even a 4-year-old understands enough to look in faith. No need to understand a complicated sacrificial system. No need to understand complex theology. Just look up to Christ in faith. Christ, & Him crucified. When we really understand how much God loves us, there's never a need to complain. Ever. We can trust God completely. Corrie Ten Boom in The Hiding Place tells of the day she & her sister Betsy entered Ravensbruck. It was the worst German prison camp they'd seen. The barracks were overcrowded & flea infested. But their Scripture reading that morning was 1 Thess. Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances. Betsy told Corrie, "Let's thank the Lord for every detail of our new living quarters." At 1st, Corrie flatly refused to give thanks for the fleas. Betsy persisted. Corrie finally agreed. During their months at Ravensbruck, they were surprised at how openly they could hold Bible study & prayer meetings. Guards didn't interfere! Several months later, they learned that the guards wouldn't enter because of the fleas. A Better Covenant, Foreshadowed - Numbers 21:4-9 Page 1 of 1
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