Numbers 21:4-6 but the people became impatient on the way. 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 detest this miserable food." Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died.
There is no guilt, there is no shame, and why should there be? After all everyoneís doing it. Certainly they wonít all perish? If God wants to save people, heíll just have to forgive, otherwise there will be no one in heaven. In a way it says, OK, so we are all sinners, so lets get busy and sin. And this is what we see all around us every day. Even against our will, it begins to touch us as well, and soon we too are caught up in the tide of popular opinion.
The problem is that when we sin, the consequences are not always immediate. Sometimes no one catches us, and we think we have "gotten away with it." After all, that is the big game these days, "what can I get away with?" There is shame, not over sin, at least not much. There is shame, but shame is getting caught. Shame is not being able to talk you way out of trouble. At least that is what we keep seeing in the world around us.
Have you ever run across a day that just didnít fit into what you had planned? Have you ever grumbled against God, saying, why does it have to be this way? Why canít I have what I want, and have it now? Did it make you feel guilty to feel this way? If it didnít make you feel guilty, donít you know the scripture, this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it"? This is important because this is at the heart of our lesson today. For while there are many sins, the sin for today is being ungrateful, grumbling against God, the his gifts are not what you want, and are not what you need. It may seem like a little thing, but you are saying, God, you are not doing your job, you may have created the world, but you are certainly not doing enough to preserve it. I know this chiefly because Iím not getting what I want, when I want it.
Now if it appears that there is not consequence for sin, sometimes we might be lead to believe that the sins is not serious, and perhaps, not even sin. Today our lesson reminds us that sin is sin whether we see its punishment now or not. Even if we are not caught in this world, God sees, and we will be accountable before him, and this will have a profound effect on where we spend our lives in the word to come. For there is death, and there is eternal death -- what wages are you willing to receive for your sins?
So we acknowledge our sin, we acknowledge that we cannot save ourselves, and we turn to God seeking helpÖ but wait, there is no help, not until we turn from sin, that is we repent and desire to change our lifeís direction, but even this we do not do by ourselves. God leads us to see our sin, and God enables us to turn from sin, God helps us in our repentance. You see, you canít keep grumbling, and at the same time ask God to cure the poison -- grumbling is poison, as certainly as the wages of sin is death. So if you cannot continue in sin, and live the new life, how can you continue to grumble, and expect God to remove the poison?
In our lesson, Israel grumbled against God, God sent the serpents, people were bit, and feeling the consequences of their sin, they turn from their sin and turn to God seeking life, healing and forgiveness.
And God heals, but in his own way. And so it comes to pass that God heals the Israelites, but to be healed they must look upon their sin and its consequences, they must remember how they were unable to save themselves, and how when they turned from their sin, and turned to God, God brought them salvation.
For us it is not a bronze serpent lifted up on a pole which heals us. It is rather the Son of God, Jesus Christ, lifted up on a cross, suffering the punishment that we deserve for our sins, on the one hand, the cross is our shame, for we know that it was our sins that put him there, and in a real sense, we are the ones who pounded the nails into his hands and feet. But just as the cross is our shame, for it reminds us of our sin, so also the cross is our hope, for on the cross our sins are taken up, are the poison is taken away, and we are given life, peace and forgiveness. Can we continue in sin, and still receive the benefits of salvation? No, how can we, considering Godís Love in Jesus Christ.