Monday, May 16, 2016

LOOK AND LIVE


The Bible.
It contains 66 different books written over the course of over 1,500 years by about 40 different authors spread over 3 different continents in 3 different languages.

The authors documented history, passed on lineage, and wrote letters.
Majority of them never met, didn't live in the same century and never read each other's writings.

And yet it’s absolutely perfect. Absolutely flawless.

Some of the 66 books are more popular than others.
And some chapters and verses in those books are better known.

John 3:16 is one of the most familiar verses in the Bible. It can be spotted on the bottom rim of an In-N-Out Burger paper cup and thanks to Tim Tebow, that particular verse was a top Google search trend in 2009 and 2012, where it was searched over 90 million times in a 24 hour period.

But what about John 3:14-15?
Do you know what they say?
Do you know the story they are referring to?

Those verses happen to recall one of my favorite stories.

Just two verses before that famous verse, Jesus was talking to a man named Nicodemus about spiritual issues and he was having a really hard time following along.

“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.”
{John 3:14-15}

To understand the comparison Jesus is making, Nicodemus had to go back about 1480 years to a story he was very familiar with and had probably taught himself. A man named Moses wrote a book called Numbers that gives us the narrative of the Israelites preparing to enter the promise land. The book tells of their disobedience and unfaithfulness to God and this particular story of a bronze serpent.

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.”
{Numbers 21:4-9}

The Israelites were tired, weary and became impatient. There were about 2.5 million of them and they started to believe that their circumstances were a reflection of the character of God. Their anger toward God and Moses started stirring in their hearts until it boiled over. They were not just speaking their frustrations, they were speaking against the very character of God and were complaining and in a sense rejecting His provisions for them. Their hearts and attitudes brought destruction upon themselves.

Oh friend, I am embarrassed to say that I identify with the Israelites way more than I would like to admit. And if I close my eyes, I can imagine myself right in the middle of this story. Will you go there with me today?

I imagine myself being in the wilderness, walking the rough terrain.

My feet hurt.
My back hurts.
I’m tired, hungry, and frustrated.

I feel myself getting so angry.
Life seemed a whole lot better before God and Moses got involved.
Yes, we were slaves, but was it really that bad?

I am telling everyone who will listen how miserable I am.
Others are joining in the gripe fest because they feel the same way.
Then out of nowhere, we hear ear-piercing screams.

Serpents have invaded our space and are biting people all around me.
My husband… bit. My friends… bit. And I am freaking out!

Several of us apologize to Moses, confess our sins and ask him to pray and ask the Lord to take the serpents away. People are dying. My family and friends are suffering. And we realize that we were to blame.

Moses prayed, the Lord answered him,
and he obeyed by making something out of bronze.

Moses prayed and the serpents are still here.
Now, he’s doing some kind of craft project.
Ugh! He just made a serpent out of bronze and raised it up on a pole.
The last thing I want to see is another serpent!

From a distance, I notice a crowd start to gather. What are they doing?
I hear whispers that, somehow, looking at the bronze serpent brings healing.
Brings life.

That sounds so weird!

But the screaming, the crying, the confusion, the hurt, the pain. It’s just too much.
If there is a chance this is true, I have to find out.

My husband is dying.
The poison is slowly flowing through his veins.
He is screaming because it burns so bad.

Oh how I wish I could run ahead and look at the serpent for him. He may not be able to make it all that way. But I was told I can't. I can’t look at the serpent for my spouse or loved ones; they have to do the looking.

So I help him to his feet and we start toward the serpent.
We only make it a few feet and then we fall.
He is in so much pain.

We walk.
We fall.
We crawl.

After what seemed an eternity, we finally made it to the bronze serpent. I stand there, my tired body holding the weight of my dying husband. And we stare. The poison is being pumped out of his body by a heart that has been healed.

Where poison and death once ruled, healing and life now resides.

He falls to his knees, eyes still fixed on the serpent.
Day turned into night and he is still staring.

I am amazed and overwhelmed.
How could this be?  How could He love this much?

"But He [God] gives more grace."
{James 4:6}

We finally look over at each other and break the silence between us.
“We have to go help the others. We have to tell them about this.”

So we go.
We tell people who have been bit “go look at the serpent that Moses lifted high!”
We are helping people who are struggling to get there on their own.

Imagine the joy that spread through the camp of Israel when the word got out that there was a cure available for everyone!

Death into life!
Mourning into laughter!
Sorrow into joy!

Could you imagine walking by someone who was dying and not tell them about the cure?  How much would you have to hate someone to not tell them that they can be healed?  To not tell them about the healing you just experienced?

The only people who weren’t healed were those who refused to go look and or those who weren’t told that there was a cure.

Oh I am so thankful that someone stopped and told us about the cure!

God told Moses to shape the bronze into a serpent, an image of the very thing that caused death. It was lifted high and anyone who had faith to look, lived.

God sent Jesus to become sin, the image of the very thing that caused death.
He was lifted high and anyone who has faith to look, lives.

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Whether you realize it or not, you have been ‘bitten.’
Do you know there is a cure?
Have you personally gone to Jesus and ‘looked?’

No one can look for you.
No one else’s faith can save you.
You have to do looking.

There are people all around us who have been ‘bitten.’
They are hurting.  They are in pain.
If you have received the cure, when is the last time you told someone about it?

How much do you have to hate someone to walk by them and not tell them about the One who was lifted high? How busy do you have to be to not stop and help someone walk the path to Jesus?

“Look to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.”
{Isaiah 45:22}

I sat in church yesterday thinking about this story. Just 6 weeks ago, we took time out of our week to remember when Jesus became our sin, was crucified, and was lifted high on the cross.  We call it Good Friday and Easter and it changed the world.  Yet, it seems like it only changes us for a weekend.

If you and I have made a decision to look to Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, when death was defeated and life flowed through our veins, we should never want to look away. Our lives should be defined by joy. Our churches should be full of joy-filled people who came to church to worship Jesus, to serve Jesus, to bring others to Jesus. It should never ever be about us. Choose today to LOOK AND LIVE!

"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.
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."
{John 3:16-18}

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