Don't forget the Christmas Snakes!
Kerry S. Doyal
Can you imagine the fear, the terror of nightfall? No candles, no flashlights. No doors to shut, or windows to latch. No beds with which to be up off the floor. No doctors, no antibodies, no 911: just snakes. Poisonous snakes. Snakes that seem to be seeking people to bite.
Friends are grieving the loss of loved ones. The Elderly, who did not see or hear them approaching, are dying. Loving Moms and Dads who were afflicted have died. Children who knew no better than to get near the snakes perish. Others linger, writhing in pain, suffering.
"Moses", they cry out, "Moses". This time it was not to sinfully complain. This time was to confess. They had sinned. Sinned against God, against Moses. They had grown impatient - been discontent. Having spoken against the Lord and Moses, they were being disciplined by the Lord.
"Why?" they had sinfully cried out, "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. Why? Why?”
God's very own gracious provision had become wearisome to them. Familiarity had bread contempt for these pouting pilgrims.
"Moses, pray for us. Talk to God for us. Ask Him to remove these snakes."
Moses, being meek, heard their plea and pleads to God for them. God, being gracious, hears Moses plea and provides a remedy.
"Moses", God calls out to him, "Moses, make a serpent. Make a serpent of bronze and put it on a pole. Take this bronze serpent on the pole and lift it up for the people. Lift it up for the people to see.”
"Moses, tell the people that those who are bit and look to the serpent will be saved. Tell them to look to the serpent to live.”
So Moses did as the LORD told him. He gathered some bronze and fashioned a snake. A snake that looked like thesnakes that were biting the people.
Yet this snake did not contain poison, did not cause death. Not a snake of condemnation, but of salvation. Not a snakeof judgment, but of deliverance.
Moses gathered the people and told them God's answer. God had seen their plight and heard their penitent plea. "I will be lifting up this serpent in the midst of the camp," Moses said. "All those who have been bitten and look to it will be healed"
Lifted up: an image of the source of the suffering. Lifted up: God's solution to the punishment for their sin. Lifted up: God's serpent to simply be looked upon.
Some must have thought, might have grumbled: "Look upon that? Look to a snake? How can that help? That makes no sense. What good does looking do? What must we do to undo our wrongs?”
Others, undoubtedly, ran home to tell loved ones to look, to look and live. Loved ones too sick to gather for Moses' good news. Loved ones near death themselves. Loved ones who it was feared would not make it through the night.
"Look! Look! The serpent has been lifted up! On the pole, on that stick. There, on that simple piece of wood is God's cure, God's remedy, God's sign of love and forgiveness. Look! Look and live."
And some did!
Some 1500 years later - now in the land Moses lead the people to - a man named Nicodemus came by night to speak to a Teacher. Nicodemus was himself a teacher, a respected leader of his people the Jews.
The Teacher that Nicodemus sought taught like no one else, and did things like no one else. "Rabbi / Teacher," Nicodemus said to Jesus, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform these miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus did not refute or deny these lofty claims. In fact, He would confirm that He was the one who came from heaven.
After telling Nicodemus he needed to be born again - somewhat confusing and befuddling Nicodemus - Jesus told him the mission God sent Him to accomplish. He, like the snake, must be lifted up. He must be lifted up on a pole and looked to for life.
As the snake brought healing, brought God's mercy, so too would the lifting up of Jesus. The cruel crucifixion of Christ Himself was God’s remedy.
So Jesus said to Nicodemus: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so too must the Son of man be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life” (read John 3).
Those bit by the snake and healed would face death again: old age, illness, war, disease. Those who look to God's Son - God's lifted up Son – show faith in God’s cure. And that belief is met with a gift of eternal life.
Will you look? Do you believe there is a need to look? Do you know you have been bitten, that you too are under God's righteous judgment for sin? "Look to Me" the Lord calls out. "Look to Me and be saved, all you ends of the earth."
God has set us all under rightful judgment due to our sins. God did not send Jesus as further condemnation, but as One in the image of the condemned - yet sin-free. He took our well-deserved damnation.
Sadly, those who refuse to look to the Son stay under condemnation. They - like all of us – are already bit and are dying. Sadder still, those who look only to mock - to scorn the Son - face deeper condemnation.
But those who look in faith, admitting their sinful state, believing God has provided, calling out to Him - these are redeemed, rescued, restored, reborn. Have you looked? Will you look?
Will you share this good news? Will you go to those who do not know? Will you relay the good news to those sick in sin, those writhing in pain of soul?
Jesus was sent by God to be lifted up, so that He could looked upon, looked to and bring salvation. Look and live and spread the good news!
Kerry S. Doyal