October 26, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“He [God] said He would have destroyed them, if Moses, His chosen one, had not stood in the gap before Him to turn away His wrath.” (Psalm 106.23)
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it up on a pole. Anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.’” (Numbers 21.8,9)
This story from Numbers serves as one example of when Moses “stood the gap” for the people of Israel in their journey to the Promised Land. But, we need to be very cautious how we approach this story lest we ourselves are bitten by the false assumption many may make about it. This is a story of healing far more than it is one of salvation. Yes, the people are saved from the poisonous snakes but only if they keep their eyes on the bronze serpent affixed to Moses’ shepherd’s staff. Yes, the means of healing which saved some out of this terrible situation was the option made available to those who confessed they had sinned against both God and Moses. But, just because they were healed from the penalty of their sin obviously didn’t change the fact that they were still a stubborn people who sought their own way through the wilderness. They were “sorry” in the moment but were they truly repentant in the days which lay ahead?
We should not lose sight of the fact that God had sent the plague of poisonous snakes upon the complaining and restless people. They had some right to complain, I suppose, because millions of people being led through the wilderness as in a forced march with low rations would grow weary of their situation. But, the story follows one of a great victory which the Hebrews won against a warring king who sought to eliminate them from the face of the earth. He only killed a few and took others into captivity; but the threat was real. So, was the response of the Hebrews who asked for God to favor their desire for revenge against and utter annihilation of their enemy. But, it was an enemy in the world and of the flesh. Instead of focusing on their complete victory, they went back to complaining again to Moses and God about their desperately unsatisfying situation. Their “spirit” had not changed and thus their attitude was still more worldly and far less “of the kingdom.”
This was a lesson the people then, and now, must still learn. And it was a lesson that was begun in the Garden of Eden. The Serpent was an enemy of both humanity and God. I am remembering in this moment that hymn which Paul recited to the Corinthians “Where, o death, is your victory? Where, o death is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15.55) It was based on the words of God to Hosea concerning the faithlessness of the people and their king who made a habit of violating the covenant of righteousness which God had established with them since the days of Moses. (Hosea 13.14) That first sting of unfaithfulness came in the Garden as Eve, then Adam, consumed the poisoned apple. And they did not literally die as Satan knew all along but they were challenged to believe that a troubled conscience was acceptable if the flesh found its true desire. Of course, Satan, the fallen Lucifer, found no pleasure in the flesh of the world. It did not satisfy nor did “consuming” the flesh satisfy the hunger for rebellion against God and liberation from the authority of God over him. This is why Peter declared that Satan was like a ravenous and outcast lion on the prowl roaring with hunger to stir up its next meal. But, what was poisoned was the heart, mind and soul of Adam and Eve. They gained the knowledge of good, doing what was intended and empowered by God to do, and of evil, doing anything else but what was intended and empowered by God to do. In that knowledge they knew shame, guilt and sorrow. But, what was hoped for in the experience would be the gaining of wisdom. In wisdom, they would, or should, know what to do to avoid succumbing the next time. What was also a part of that story in Eden was Satan being put on notice that his reign of terror would come to an end through those whom he sought to deceive.
God, the call to accountability is great but we must not shirk our responsibility to serve one another in faith, hope and love. We seek the strengthening of Your Spirit so that the work we are called to do and the work we are intended to do is the work that we shall do knowing that our fate is not in the hands of those around us but in Yours alone. We know it is far more important to fear the One who can render judgment on body and soul than the one who could simply take our life in this world. To God by the glory in the name of Jesus, we pray, AMEN.