It seems to be what happens when most everything is provided. Spare the rod, spoil the child. Right? They were not quite pampered but they had it rather good. They had it pretty easy. They were fed and protected. They didn’t have to work too hard for it. But you know what happens when life is too easy. People become unsatisfied, lazy, and often complain. Why did they have to ruin such a good thing with thanklessness. Their comforts led to an attitude of entitlement. Their eyes were focused down on the stuff rather than up to the hand that provided such care. God would help them look up. 4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. Almost 40 years of wandering for the Israelites was drawing to a close. They were slaves in a land of Egypt as they grew to about two million in population. God miraculously freed them from that bondage and the people were about to take possession of the promised land. The land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea was promised 500 years earlier to Abraham. On the edge of entering into the land, the people forgot who God was. They forgot to look up. They looked down and around at the problem and were too afraid to go in. For their lack of trust, God made them wander in the desert for 40 years. The older generation would die in the desert and the younger one would walk into the land. So these verses in Numbers is the second time they approached the promised land. On the doorstep of the promised land was a nation called Edom. They were cousins of sort to the Israelites. Descendants of Esau, Jacob’s (Israel) brother. Moses asked, “Can we please take the short cut through your country. We will pay for what we eat. We will walk through as quickly as we can. We just want to go home.” The Edomites denied this request and sent soldiers to ensure the Israelites went around. Back into the desert for one big detour. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” One could understand speaking against Moses. He was human. He was flawed. But they spoke against God. But when one speaks against the authority which God establishes, that is also speaking against God. So to Moses as he recorded this event, they were one in the same. What caused their grumbling? They forgot to look up. They forgot to see all the blessings God gave them. Instead, focused on the circumstance, they grumbled. They forgot they were still wearing the same shoes and clothes they left with. If you think that boring, think about that pair of shoes or pants that you hated to say goodbye to because, while they were so comfy, the shreds that were leftover didn’t provide proper arch support or ample covering. What if they never wore out and remained comfortable for 40 years. Wouldn’t that be great! And the food! Do you know how much food it would take to satisfy 2 million
people? God gave them manna, a starchy substance, for food every morning and quail every evening. Instead of writing them of, “Fine! You go to bed hungry! No food! You want to take care of your own cloths? You get them yourselves!” God patiently provides a wake-up call. He is bidding them to look up! 6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. Before we jump on God’s back, we should ask the question, “What if God did nothing?” They would have continued their behavior. Also remember that this is a temporal consequence, not an eternal consequence. God doesn’t detail for
us their eternal destination. It could have been heaven for those who died because of their faith. What do you think
would have been worse, to die from the snake bite or live knowing someone you knew died from the snake bite? It was the living ones that needed the greater lesson, which they learned. Look up! God could, and should, do so much worse against us. We grumble and complain about so much when we deserve none of it. We feel entitled to an easier life. We have it so good that God has blessed even the poorest among us to be richer than most the world. It is so easy to bite and blame God when life isn’t up to our expectations.
Discipline is actually an act of love nor hate. Discipline shows that you care about your children and if they behave or not. God loves you too much to let you keep living in your filth. Like a puppy that is so happy to roll in the mud, if God were to sheath his sword we would so quickly wallow in the dirt. God loves us more than that. So when it happens don’t run from the difficulty but lean in and look up. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. There was trust in the promise that God was
going to preserve the people somehow. There was a promise that a Savior was to come from these people. God had to provide a way to survive this. He promised. I wonder if Moses prayed as the people requested. They wanted God to remove the snakes. That would seem to them to be a good solution. But God did something different. 8 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.” 9 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, he lived. God had called water from a rock, fed them with manna and quail; his almighty power could do what he had promised. The power of the cure was in the words and promise of God. Instead of using that power to remove the snakes, he instructed Moses to construct a bronze snake. It doesn’t seem to be the greatest plan. “You want me to do what? You say just look at this bronze snake and I will live?” Some could have said, “That’s impossible.” And died in their unbelief. But every single person who had no idea how it was going to work and still looked to the snake survived and was healed.
God didn’t remove the snakes. He provided the way to be healed. How long did it take to be rid of these snakes? What happened to them? Were they hunted down and killed? Did they slowly die off? Did the people have to live with them until they moved to the next place? How many were bit several times? These are all unanswered questions. No matter what, anyone who looked to the snake lived. God doesn’t take the sin away. This can be the most frustrating thing. But God does give you his own Son, lifted up on the cross. Jesus declared to Nicodemus, “Whoever believes in me will live.” Look up to the cross and live. Look up to
your baptism and live. In baptism, you have a new identity no longer related to your sinful nature. You can look up in temptation, not down to your circumstance or your own strength but look up to God for his forgiveness and his power. Look up as you take the Lord’s Supper.
If you feel like you don’t need the Supper, just look around you. Touch yourself. Do you still have flesh? You still have a sinful nature. Look around you at the temptations of the world that bombard you and Satan who wants to attack you. You need God who bids you to look up to his Son sacrificed for you to redeem you from sin. Don’t think you need it?
Then trust God as he identifies the sin in the world and in your flesh through his word. Trust Jesus when he says, “Do this,” because he knows you need it. Like many good things given by God, it was abused. Hezekiah destroyed the bronze snake because it was used for
idolatry (2 Kings 18:4). But God kept his promise. God sent the Son. The Son was lifted up so that everyone who looks to the Son, believes in the Son, has eternal life.
Don’t wait for God to send calamity to stop and appreciate how much you have and how good you have it. Anywhere this side of hell is a good place to be. Heaven is all yours, waiting for you when you get there. All of it is yours already. Look up because your Savior loves you.