The year 2020 has been something else. We have faced some real challenges that we have never faced before. Depression and anxiety medication sales are at an all-time high with the coronavirus and businesses closing such as theaters and sporting events. This pandemic has created problems in our schools, hospitals and homes. Globally, loss of lives, sickness and disease are on the increase. When I think of all that has transpired this year, it reminds me of the wilderness experience in the Bible.
In Numbers 21:2-9, Israel was in the wilderness and the Canaanites attacked them. They asked for God’s help, and He heard them and delivered them from the Canaanites and destroyed the Canaanite cities. In Numbers 21:4 it says that they journeyed from Mt. Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. But the soul of the people became discouraged on the way. This was the way God was leading them. You would think after God delivered them from the Canaanites and helped them win the battle that they would have been thankful and not discouraged. But sometimes, even when God is leading us, it doesn’t look the way we thought it would or things don’t work out or happen the way we think they should and we can get discouraged. They had forgotten all that God and Moses had just brought them through, and they began to complain and murmur against God and Moses when they should have been thankful. In Numbers 21:6 God sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people and many of the people of Israel died. When Israel saw this, they went to Moses and said, “We have sinned for we have spoken against the Lord and against you (Moses). Pray to the Lord that He would take the serpents away.”
Then in Numbers 21:8 the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and it shall be that everyone who is bitten when he looks at it shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and put it on a pole. And so it was, if the serpent had bitten anyone when they looked at the bronze serpent, they lived and were healed of the snake bites. What is the implication or revelation of the snake bites? When we are not thankful, and we fail to recognize God for what He has done and begin to complain and murmur about our circumstances and situations, it invites negative influences and demonic activity into our lives.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 it says, “in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” We don’t give thanks for the loss of life and all the problems we are seeing in our world, but because of the problems and the difficulty they might bring we can find many things to be thankful for in the midst of it. When we give thanks and ask for God’s help, He will help us if we will look to Him.
Philippians 2:14 says, “Do all things without complaining and disputing.” In this story, in the wilderness, God used the very thing that had bitten and poisoned them to heal them. When they looked at the bronze snake on the pole they were healed. What had caused the problem became the cure. Sounds like a vaccine.
In John 3:14 it says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” Jesus is saying that like the snake on a pole, everyone who looked on it was healed. Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up—Jesus on the cross. Jesus became sin that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). He had to become the sin. He could not stay righteous on the cross or He couldn’t heal us. Isaiah 53 says He became sin and by His stripes we are healed. That we would be made righteous (right with God).
Hebrews 12:2 says we are to be looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. It is only when we look to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, that we can have our sins be forgiven and be healed of the sin virus by repenting of all our sins and inviting Jesus into our hearts. I once heard a preacher say in a sermon, about 30 years ago, that life is short, death is for sure, sin is the reason and Jesus is the cure.
The writer is the senior pastor at Russell Road Church, Sidney.