Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fiery serpents in the wilderness

The children of Israel frequently managed to get themselves into trouble.  Here is another instance of the children of Israel sinning and the Lord punishing them for their sin.

Num 21:4  And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.
Num 21:5  And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.

First we see the sin.  The children became discouraged because of the difficult journey, so they began to complain.  They complained about being brought into the wilderness (it should be noted that the reason they were wandering around the wilderness at this point was because they had a lack of faith and would not go into the Promised land), they complained that there was no bread (even though the Lord was still daily providing manna), they complained that they didn't have any water, and they complained that they didn't like the manna.

Num 21:6  And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. 

The Lord's response to their complaining was immediate consequences.  The serpents bit the people and many of the people died. 

Num 21:7  Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. 

The people realized that they had sinned, and begged Moses to pray to the Lord to take away the serpents. 

Num 21:8  And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.
Num 21:9  And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

The Lord did not grant the request of the people, but He did provide a way to live.   Moses made a serpent of brass, put it on a pole, and if a person looked at the serpent he would live. 
This story is pretty straight-forward.  We see the sin, the consequences, and then mercy from the Lord.  The sin that they committed in our eyes is often considered not that bad, but in the eyes of the Lord it was sin.  The consequences of sin is always death (Rom 3:23), and this is the consequence that the children of Israel receive for their sin.   The children of Israel were not even sorry for their sins until after they began to receive the consequences.  When they went to Moses and asked for mercy, the Lord did grant mercy, but the children of Israel did not have all the consequences taken away.  In order to avoid death the children of Israel individually had to obey and look at the serpent of brass.

So let's apply this to our lives.  Do we punish our children for complaining?  In the eyes of the Lord, complaining was a serious sin-worthy of severe punishment.  Is the reason that we don't punish our children for complaining because they see us complaining and they are just copying us?   Just because our children repent of their sin do we remove all consequences?  The Lord did remove the most severe of the consequences, but all the consequences were not removed, and in fact to avoid the most severe of the consequences, obedience was required!
This is a common response of the Lord.  When sin occurs, the Lord in His justice hands out the consequences, but in His mercy allows a way to reduce the severity of the consequence, but He never removes them totally.
Adam and Eve-the consequence was death, but mercy delayed it.
Miriam and Aaron-the consequence was leprosy and removal from the camp, but mercy allowed the leprosy to be taken away.
The children of Israel at Canaan-the consequence was that the Lord was ready to strike them all dead; but the mercy gave them 40 more years of life.

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