Numbers 21:4-9 God gives us what we need ~ when we need it
We live in a free-market, capitalistic society where we are free to expect and demand what we want when we want it (and complain if we don’t get it).
Want a hamburger? Choices on where to go are many…
With Amazon can get you anything from a year’s supply of toilet paper to an 80 inch TV and have it delivered to your doorstep in two days
No more Blockbuster for a movie – you can watch what you want, when you want On Demand.
That’s capitalism. The problem appears when the principles of free-market capitalism are applied to our relationship with God.
American Christianity EXPECTS God’s OBLIGATED to our wants, and thinks of God as a heavenly Amazon.com – who WILL give us what we want, when we want it – or we can just take our business elsewhere.
But God loves us too much to give us what we want, when we want it.
He promises something even better: he gives us what we need, when we need it.
We meet up with the Israelites near the end of their wandering in the wilderness.
They were about to step into the land God had promised to their fathers 40 years earlier after he had rescued them from slavery in Egypt.
They were so close they could almost taste it.
Once they had passed through the nation of Edom, they would be home – in a land flowing with milk and honey.
1 problem: Edom refused to let them pass.
Israelites had to turn around, go back where they came from & take a 200 mile detour
2 million Israelites were on foot, in a barren desert, carrying everything they owned on their backs, after having spent 4 decades wandering the wilderness.
So they filed a complaint “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!”
God and Moses felt like parents on a family vacation.
Let the griping begin: “I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I’ve got to go to the bathroom.” ~ “I don’t want sandwiches, why can’t we stop at McDonalds.” ~ Tensions rise
Now the final act of rebellion – kicking the back of your seat! Spoiled brats, that’s what the Israelites were behaving like.
You detest this miserable food? You mean this food that God rains down from heaven day after day, food that you don’t have to work or pay for, food that you simply have to pick up and eat?
How about your clothing –(Nehemiah tells us that even after 40 years of walking the clothing and shoes of the Israelites did not wear out.) (Nehemiah 9:21)
You dare complain about being rescued from Egypt? Do you remember what went on there? Your parents were worked to death producing bricks and their baby boys were put to death.
Would you really prefer that to the freedom and security of walking with God to a land of your own?
Who would grumble and complain about God’s GOODNESS?
I would never complain like the Israelites, would I?
We itemizing our grievances & complaints ~ rather than counting our blessings.
“But it’s my right to complain.” No. It’s not.
“in everything give thanks for this is the will of God concerning you” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Get This ~ griping and complaining are NOT the hallmarks of faith ~ they are OPPOSITE that
rebellion – is denial and rejection of God’s promise to provide everything we need. (James 1:17)
Complaining about what God has or hasn’t given us is a serious sin ~ because it alleges that God doesn’t know what is best for us, or that his giving us LESS than what is good.
This is a SHOT at God’s Character
It is rebellion to think that we know better than God.
the sin that got Adam and Eve kicked out of Eden (Genesis 3:24),
Got Jonah swallowed by a fish (Jonah 1:17),
Led to Israelites’ 40 year wandering in the wilderness (Numbers 14),
LESSON: we grow so fixated on the gifts that we forget the giver,
Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died.
Like the parent who turns around and says “Quit your crying or I will…give you something to cry about”
God turned to the Israelites – in love – and told them with snakes “I’m going to give you something to cry about because you need a wakeup call.
REMEMBER who’s in charge here.
These lethal snakes FORCED Israelites to reflect on themselves and their behavior.
They realized how faithless and ungrateful they were
When they realized that the only thing they deserved was a painful death, they were quick to change their tune: 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.”
God’s discipline administered through venomous snakes accomplished his purpose: it brought about a change of heart, a confession of sin, sincere heartfelt repentance.
When we cry about how unfair life is, God might respond by giving us something to really cry about.
Complain about work, he might give us a pink slip.
Grumble about money, … dentist
Gripe about pains… he might send us to the ER.
LESSON: sometimes hardships are just that ~ but sometimes God uses then to get our attention (Read the book of Job or John chapter 9)
But when we fall into the unbelief of complaining about God’s gifts to us, he loves us enough to give us a healthy dose of REALITY
Why? Because sometimes pain is the only sermon that gets our attention. C.S. Lewis wrote: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, but shouts in our pain: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Through his loving discipline ~ God helps see that our biggest problem ~ is our lost condition as sinners; and how we must join the Israelites ~ in the excuse free, confession that we [have] sinned against the LORD.
And if God uses painful, unpleasant discipline to bring about that goal, we shouldn’t get angry, Hebrews 12:6 “whom the Lord loves he disciplines”
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, he lived.
NOTICE: God didn’t give the Israelites what they wanted? They wanted the snakes taken away.
Instead, God gave them another snake, a bronze snake on a pole.
This had to seem like foolishness to the Israelites.
How could looking at a bronze snake save them?
That was the point. It was not the bronze snake that saved them, it was the promise God attached to it.
And so, it took faith in God’s Word for those who were writhing in pain to look at that snake on the pole, but if they believed and looked, God saved their lives.
FAITH in God’s promises is what the Israelites needed most ~ his discipline ~ his salvation – God gave them exactly what they needed, right when they needed it.
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)
1) Just like the Israelites, we are all infected with the deadly poison of sin – a poison that without treatment, will result in eternal death.
2) In both cases there is only one cure: faith in God’s promise.
3) Just as there was no poison in that bronze snake, so there was no sin in Jesus, and yet he forgave our sin ~ bled and died for it on the cross
4) In both cases, the cure is immediate and complete.
The moment the Israelites looked to the bronze snake in faith in God’s promise – they were healed.
The moment anyone comes to faith in Jesus – they are saved, period.