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Summary: At first glance the book of Numbers reads a bit like an operations manual. It’s got numbers of soldiers, lists of names, and a bit of repetition. Tucked between those lists and numbers are some stories of real people, dealing with real issues of faith!

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BETWEEN THE NUMBERS

ANTIVENOM

Numbers 21:1-25

INTRODUCTION

-Several years ago I had the chance to preach at a church in Prineville and I decided to take Curtis with me and spend the night at the Prineville Reservoir State Park.

-While we were setting up our tent we noticed some holes in the ground and figured some kind of little creatures had made them.

-And as we were working we saw a Rattlesnake slither out of one of those holes and head into another hole!

-These holes with the rattlesnake were in our campsite!!!

-So we did the only logical thing we could think to do…we got rocks and plugged every hole we could see!

-Today we are looking at a passage in Numbers that frankly seems a bit strange. It’s a passage that deals with snakebites.

-Turn in your Bibles to Numbers 21 and while you do that I’ll give you just a quick background so you know where we’re at in the story of Israel’s journey to the Promised Land.

-At this point, the 40 years of desert wandering are almost over.

-The journey had not been smooth; there were multiple rebellions and multiple corresponding punishments from God.

-The people were closing in on the place where they could finally call home! It would be Israel: the home of God’s people.

-But the Israelites were kind of thickheaded. Not likes us.

-When it came to the discipline of God, they followed the instructions on the back of shampoo bottles…rinse and repeat.

-They would disobey, get punished, repent. Disobey, get punished, repent. Disobey, get punished, repent. A vicious cycle!

-Well chapter 21 begins with a skirmish between Israel and the Canaanites.

-Israel didn’t start the fight, but they finished it.

-The Canaanites attacked them and Israel sent them packing.

-But now they are coming up to the borders of Edom.

-The Edomites were distant relatives of Israel and the Edomite land was not part of the Promised Land so verse 4 tells us they went around the Edomite territory.

-And you know that going around is always longer than going right through. So guess what happened?

-They began to complain….verse 4.

4 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 with the long journey, 5 and they began to speak 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 horrible manna!”

-It’s hard to believe that they would complain about the food and water…again.

-Twice they’ve complained about not having water.

-Last week we saw that Moses got so frustrated with them that he blew his cool and lost his ticket to the Promised Land.

-If you read this book without a big picture understanding you might think that Israel staged a rebellion every single day!

-But as we read Numbers it’s important to remember we’re reading the highlights and low lights of a 40 time period.

-Many of the stories that appear back to back often have years between them. But still!!!!

-How could they keep rebelling against the Lord like that?

-They worshipped idols! They complained about water!

-They complained about manna!

-They complained about Moses!

-They complained about water again!

-They complained about Moses again, and again, and again!

-And here they are complaining about the manna...again.

-At every possible turn they were ungrateful to God.

-They showed contempt for God.

-They questioned and even opposed what God was doing.

-They wanted to go back to how it used to be, instead of being special, and chosen, and set apart for God.

-How could they keep rebelling against the Lord like that?

-It might be more beneficial to ask “How can we?”

-It’s tempting to criticize the ancient Israelites, to shake our heads in disbelief as we read about their mistakes.

-It’s easy to scrutinize them because, well…they’re dead!

-But at times we bear a striking resemblance to those desert wanderers.

-In fact, from Israel’s struggles we’re reminded of a foundational Biblical truth about humankind.

ALL PEOPLE HAVE AN INHERENT PROBLEM WITH SIN.

-This is Basic Christianity 101.

-Every person who has ever lived, and every person who will ever live, will sin.

-Educated people and uneducated people sin.

-Black people, white people, and all shades of people sin.

-Rich people, poor people, Christian people and non-Christian people all sin.

-You sin. I sin. Our spouses sin. Our parents sin. Our children sin.

-In addition to death and taxes; sin is the one thing that everyone on the planet has in common.

-You have to know this. You have to admit this. You have to accept this fact before you can accept Jesus Christ as your Savior.

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