I've been pondering on this particular passage for the past few days. I think partly because I am guilty more often than not of discontentment and complaining. I know it's not pleasing to the Lord, but why do I do it?
In Numbers 21, the Israelites defeat the Canaanites and are headed along the Red Sea around the land of Edom. They begin to get discouraged along the way. So as any discouraged follower, they start speaking against God and Moses saying, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” (Numbers 21:5) God doesn't stand for "ungratefulness, complaining and whining." God then sent "snakes on the plain." Verse 6 says, "So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died."
When the people realized that their tongues were speaking venomous words against God and his servant Moses, God had to help them understand that every time an accusation came from their mouths, it was the same as if being bitten by a snake. You don't die instantly, it is slow and painful. This is how much our words affect our life. James 3:8 says "But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison."
When the people realized what they had done, they went to Moses and repented. Moses in turn prayed to the Lord to remove the snakes. The scripture goes on to say "Then 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.” 9 So
Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a
serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he
lived." (Numbers 21:8 & 9)
I surely would have been one of those who would have had to look at the pole if I had not already died. What is interesting to me is that the people were speaking out against God and Moses. How many times in our lives, especially those of us who are Christians, have talked against pastors, evangelists, those called to lead by God? We blame them for why we don't trust church leaders, church people and it's their fault why we stopped attending church. We often give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, but when it comes to leaders, we complain about their actions. We are human and we all make mistakes. But sometimes, just as little children don't understand why parents make some of the decisions they do, God doesn't explain what He's doing. Sometimes that includes the leaders he places in our lives.
The passage says that they were on a route near the Red Sea going around Edom. They didn't like the direction God was taking them. How many times do we get frustrated with God at the direction our lives are going? We often scream like an impatient child, "it's taking too long." I can say this because I'm the first to raise my hand at this. The more I ponder on this, I wonder if that is why so many of us Christians are stuck in our wilderness suffering through the poisonous words that have cursed our lives and have caused us suffering and pain.
I learned several years ago after reading this, that the medical symbol comes from this passage. When I went searching for this image, it looked very similar to another image of salvation. God made a way to reverse the curse of the snake bite by having the people look at the pole with the bronze serpent. This really made me think about the cross and how it is a similar picture for us. The cross is a symbol of salvation. Instead, Jesus bruised the serpents head and conquered death by going to the cross. The curse was reversed because of Jesus being willing. Jesus didn't complain or whine about the direction his life had to take. Why do we think we have right to complain about the direction God is taking us in our lives? I wonder if most of the sickness in the church is from the poisonous words we've spoken about one another and about those God placed in our lives to lead us?
I want to see the promises of God come to pass in my life. Could it possibly be my own tongue delaying them? This short little passage has made a big imprint on my heart. I need to forgive those I've accused of leading me the "wrong way" and blaming others for some of my decisions. But even more, asking God to forgive me for blaming Him just because things aren't to my preference. Hebrews 12:2 says, "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." 1 Peter 3:10 says, “He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit."
What "snakes" have slithered their way into your life? What venom has gotten into your bloodstream that is affecting your health and attitude? Take a moment right now to look to the cross for forgiveness. Jesus said in John 3:14-15, "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” Humble yourself, repent, receive healing and eternal life. An interesting thought is, the scripture doesn't say God removed the snakes from them, He only made a way for them to live. There will always be snakes in our lives so keep your eyes on Jesus, he is the author and finisher of our faith.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Friday, February 6, 2015
Today the Bible reading was from the book of Numbers. The chapter was 11 and the particular section was "Quail From the Lord." It starts with verse 4 "The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, 'If only we had meat to eat! 5We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost-also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!'" Wow, does that sound like me sometimes. The manna bread that fell from heaven, baked in the heavenly ovens was delivered to their door step everyday. I would imagine every morning as they came out of their tents it might have smelled like it smells walking down Main Street at Disneyland. I have a friend who researched and found a similar recipe that might have been what manna tasted like. Its was similar to a waffle cone, dense and sweet.
Then I came to verse 10. It says "Moses heard the people of every family wailing, each at the entrance to his tent. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled." Here God was giving them something that was special that could not be replicated. Think about it, the women didn't have to get up early to get the oven hot or coals and spend all morning baking bread for the family. The men didn't have to go out and grow the grain and harvest the grain needed to make the bread. It sounds so much like me. How ungrateful I am more often than not, that I can drive to the market and get what I need and it only takes me an hour of my week. And I still complain about going to the grocery store.
Verse 18 says "Tell the people: 'Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The Lord heard you when you wailed, "If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!" Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. 19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, 20 But a whole month-until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it-because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying "Why did we ever leave Egypt?" They whined and dined. But probably not the way they had anticipated. Be careful what you ask for. How many times has God given me exactly what I wanted and after I got it, wasn't so happy about it? In fact, sometimes it becomes a burden in my life.
Then I read verse 33, "But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. 34 Therefore the place was names Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had craved other food." Ouch! I can remember one time in my life when I was blessed with a great little car. My great-grandmother told me to pick a car that I would like. We went to the dealer and she paid cash and I drove off the lot in a brand new car with no car payments. Other than replacing the battery, I never had a problem with that car. Then a few years later, a new model came out and I really wanted it. So I decided to trade in my payment free car for a newer model and now I was having to make car payments every month. Needless to say, that car ended up being a lemon. Because I didn't have any problems with the previous car, I opted out of the warranty. This car had problem after problem and because of it, put me deep in credit card debt.
I don't think God's feelings were hurt because the people got tired of the manna, I think it was more about their attitude. God is pretty clear on his expectations of our heart and character. Thankfulness is where He prefers us to be. Philippians 2:14 & 15 says, 14Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe." He is holy and whining and complaining doesn't line up in the holy category.
This passage hit pretty close to home for me. Down deep in my heart, I really don't want to be a whiner. I really need to watch how I talk from now on. Its so easy to point out and complain about the things in my life that aren't the way I would prefer. I need to be more thankful for the things the Lord has provided for me. Its more important for me to be grateful. Thats is what is pleasing to Him. Psalm 100:4 says to "Enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart and to enter his courts with praise." I don't think there will be whiners in Heaven.