Summary: (PowerPoint slides are freely available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org) Discovering God’s provision to overcome the snakes.
Journeying with John - It’s a Blast (JWJ-14)
Camping with the Snakes
The people of Israel are on the brink of victory. They are about to start defeating the nation of Canaan after spending 40 years wandering around the wilderness. They are about to enter the Promised Land that God had promised them. And God is so keen to teach them about faith and victory and impart this into their lives that He is about to break one of His own commandments. They are one step from victory when the Bible has these tragic words to say. “The people become impatient because of the journey.” (Numbers 21:4) The word ‘impatient’ literally means that they wanted to see the harvest. Here is what impatience is:- it is taking your eyes off God and putting them back on your circumstances. It is taking your trust in God, His ways and His timing, and instead believing that you have a better way. Now watch this - when you start to become impatient, you start to become distrustful of God, His people and His plan, and you start to become dissatisfied with the provision of God. I have seen this time and time again in the ministry. Somebody is running well, going on with God, growing and enjoying the richness of grace - and they start to become impatient, weary, resentful. They start to second guess, get a little bit of defiant, start to wave a fist at God - become critical. And that is exactly what Israel did. They got tired of the manna. Now sure, they had been eating manna for fourty years. Some who were now adults who had been born in the wilderness - all they ever had known was manna. Only manna - and manna all the time - morning. Noon and night.
They have manna coming out their ears. Chopped manna, sautéed manna, manna boiled and broiled, crumbled, creamed, sliced, diced, fried, flicked, baked, flaked, manna helper, manna supreme - you name it - forty years of manna!
Numbers 21:5 “The people spoke against God and Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.’” Or as the Hebrew literally says, “Our souls loathe this miserable manna.” Oh dear, what a shame, what a state to be in.
Proverbs 13:3 “The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; The one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”
Job 40:4 “Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth.”
Boy - it sure is good thing to know when to lay your hand over your mouth isn’t it.
My friend, when we forget the richness of grace, when we forget the privilege of sonship, when we forget the blindness of mercy, when we forget the power of forgiveness - we soon despise the gift of love and trample underfoot the sacrifice of Jesus. What a terrible place to be. God must do something - and what does He do? He sends snakes into the Israelite camp - red, fiery snakes, poisonous snakes - and God started destroying the people with these snakes because of their rebellion and hardness of heart. Instead of disciplining their impatience, they let their mouths run, they took God for granted and spoke again God and against their leaders - and they trampled on grace.
So here they are - camping with the snakes - and it is killing them - I mean literally. They can’t sleep well at night because the snakes are slithering into the tents. They cannot go out to the see their friends in the morning because the snakes are slithering in the grass. They cannot go to church on Sunday because the snakes are slithering under the pews. Somebody gets bitten by a snake and dies, and while they were carrying him off to be buried, one of those carrying him gets bitten. So they need six more - and then they are down to five. You think I am exaggerating don’t you? This is not a small problem they are having with a couple of snakes and with one or two of them being bitten. Understand that Paul says in Corinthians (1 Cor. 10:9) that God was destroying them through the snakes. Snakes are dangerous in their natural state. Now put thousands of snakes with a divine mandate in the midst of the nation of Israel and watch them have at it. You do not want divinely mandated snakes looking for you.
So what happened. The people cried out to God. They grabbed Moses and said this, “We have sinned because we spoke against the Lord. We submit your lead. Please, pray for us and ask God to take away the snakes.” So Moses intercedes for them. And God responds - watch this:-