Friday, March 03, 2006

Lent: Serpents and Satisfaction (Day 3)

Listen to Numbers 21 focusing on the text from verses 4-8:

In our Bible study at work we are reading through the book of Job. Today we were on chapter 6. Job is begining his response to his friend Eliphaz's comments in chapters 4-5. At this point Job is a desperate man. Having lost his crops, his herds, his home, his health, and most hurtful I believe his children, he is mustering all remaining strength in his destitution not to curse God. In verse 4 Job actually states that his spirit has been poisoned by God; in verse 9 he asks God to crush his body since death has become a welcomed joy.

Job has plenty to trouble his Spirit here. He has plenty to complain about. I know something about complaining. I hear them everyday. One of my coworkers complained today that he was put in jail with a murder this morning simply for driving on expired licensed plates. A manager complained about the number of people more concerned about the arrest than the day's work. I spent my morning complaining that I was wasting my lunch hour today on a trip to have my wife's vehicle emssion tested so that I did not end up in a jail cell.

It's not exclusive to my workplace, in our home the complaints come from all ages, and measure across all sorts of problem. My four year old complains that I will not give her a second helping of Fritos at bed time snack. My 20 month old complains, "Mao!" We are unsure what the word means, but the inflection clairifies it is a serious greivance. My wife constantly reminds me of her cheif complaint, "I HATE pregnancy, and you did this to me you know!." I like the others at our house rattle off disgust with the same distaste and disregard.

It is clear to me that not one of us in my family, not one of my coworkers, not a single person I know seems to live satisfied. Job was not satisfied with the gift of living. I am not satisified with the abundance of blessings I live in. Israel was not satisfied with it's freedom from Egypt.

That is what the bronze serpent was all about. Yesterday, I committed to reread and reexamine the story of the brazen serpent. So, I did. I discovered that Israel was dissatified with the theocracy they were living under. Israel was dissatisfied with the prospect of another meal consisiting of manna and quail. Israel longed for the tasty morsels of food they enjoyed as slaves in Egypt. So a they complained. So they vocalized their disgust at Moses and at the Lord. These people deserved better. This nation deserved more than just the bland living of God's desert provision. The people of Israel desired their tounges, their bodies, their every physical desire to be satisfied on demand. So a plauge came into their community.

Truthfully, the people of this clan called Israel are no different than most people I know. Most people I know are living under the burden of the plauge that result from self indulgence. Most people I know spend their whole lives chasing forbidden fruits that leave them hiding in shame.
Some people I know however, have discovered their self indulgent pursuits are the poison that is killing them on the inside. These people, the ones brave enough to face that truth are looking for something that will take away the pain, the misery, and death caused by the serpent.

In the case of Israel, in the time of this plauge that sight was a bronze serpent lifted on a pole towering in the air. I believe the image was a methaphor for God's ultimate redemptive plan. I believe the bronze snake was an allegory to the sin and the iniquity that the Christ would bear. I believe the image was a prophecy for they death Jesus would die as He was lifted up to be a spectacle.

Israel looked at a bronze snake lifted on nondescript post to recieve the healing of their bodies through the power of the Great Physican. The serpent lifted on the post was not ugly and detestable like the cold blooded invertabrates that slithered through the camp. It was golden in color and sparkled in the desert sun. This serpent was forged from from the offerings given to the Lord, for his glory. The serpent that killed and destroyed still slinked about the camp, but this serpent formed to shame the other's likeness brought life.

Today, we as spiritual Israel look at the Christ, who though he had no sin and though he had no shame bore our sin and our shame on nondescipt wooden cross so that our bodies, our soul, and our spirit might be healed through the power of the Great Physican. The snake, that wiley serpent who first snuck death into the garden, was shamed as Christ was lifted up in beauty bearing his likeness, the sin of the world, as an offering to God.

The perspective of the people changed drastically after the poisonus snakes came in. Before the plauge the people felt that it would take bread, meat, and gourmet spices to satsify their needs. Once the venom of snake bite forced them to stare down gauntlet of physical death, there were no complaints about the petty trivial concerns that had consumed them before. After the poison of the bite, they needed only life to satisfy them.

On my best days, when I am thinking clearly, and seeking the crucified Christ with all my heart I realize that life is all I really need to be satisfied as well. I do not need more things, I do not need more comfort, I need only the bread of life and the cup of the new covenant to satisfy my most true needs.

"More Than Rain
More Than Bread
By Your Hand I'm always fed.

More than Air
More than life
My Every need you satisfy.

You Satisfy
You Satisfy my heart and soul"
-Matt Lundgren

The plauge changed the measure of satisfaction for the people of Israel; no loner was it about their hunger and thirst, but instead it was about their life. The end of the Job's story like Israel's is finding his satisfaction in seeing God. I, when I see the Lord raised on a nondescript post bearing his offering and taking on the likeness of sin, realize that only he can fill me, only he can find my true thirst and satisfy.

Then the people of Israel set out from Mount Hor, taking the road to the Red Sea to go around the land of Edom. But the people grew impatient along the way, 5and they began to murmur against God and Moses. "Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?" they complained. "There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this wretched manna!"

So the LORD sent poisonous snakes among them, and many of them were bitten and died. Then the people came to Moses and cried out, "We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take away the snakes." So Moses prayed for the people.

Then the LORD told him, "Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to the top of a pole. Those who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!" - Numbers 21:4-8

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