Summary: You are dying. How then, can you live forever? Is there a way out of dying?
Numbers 21:4-9: How to Live when You're Dying
Have you ever gone to church and you looked at the bulletin and you thought to yourself, I don't think this sermon is really going to apply to me. Maybe it's Father's Day and the sermon is talking about being a father, and you think to yourself, "I don't have any kids - I'm not a father - this doesn't apply to me." Or there's a sermon series on marriage, and you are single, and you say to yourself, "This doesn't apply to me, I don't have a spouse." What about the sermon for today - how to live when you're dying. Well, I'm not dying, you might say to yourself. I haven't been diagnosed with any bad diseases - I know people who are in bad shape, but I'm not one of them. I'm not really all that old - so I'm not sure if this sermon for today is really for me - how to live when you're dying. I'm not dying."
I'm glad you're not dying. It's a blessing from God if you're not on your deathbed right now. That's a good thing. But if you think about it, we're all dying, in some way or another. I don't want to be a negative person, but this sermon, these words of Scripture, might apply to you and to me more than we might think. Let's take a moment and let God speak to us through this part of the Bible - and as we do, you might find out some things out about God and about yourself that you had not thought of before. How to live when you're dying - God teaches us how, here in Numbers 21…
In this part of the Bible we meet a bunch of people that were not very happy. It's the people of Israel - God was leading them out of Egypt and to the promised land of Israel. But something was happening that was making the people very unhappy - it wasn't an easy trip. They were literally in the middle of nowhere, in a very hot and dry desert. And the trip was taking longer than they wanted. It says here that "the people grew impatient along the way" - kind of like how you and I feel when the red light is taking too long to turn green - magnify that by 1000. They started to complain: "They spoke against God and against Moses." They didn't like the food that God was giving them. They didn't trust that God was going to give them any water. They were not happy and they started to attack God with their attitudes and their words. And they started to attack Moses.
Then God does something here that, at first, seems to be a little harsh. It says that God sent venomous snakes among them that bit the people and many Israelites died. Why did God do that? These people needed to learn that their complaining was very inappropriate. You're not supposed to be disrespectful to God and accuse him of not loving you or caring for you. You're not supposed to forget about all the good things God has done for you in the past. You're not supposed to attack God or God's representative Moses. Really, what these people were doing was rebelling against God and rejecting his love with their complaining. They were pushing God away and they needed a wake-up call because they were spiritually dying. If they kept rejecting God like this, they would all end up in hell.
And so God sent the snakes. People were getting bitten. People were dying all over the place. It was a wakeup call. And God's plan worked. "The people came to Moses and said, "We sinned when we spoke against God and against you." They confessed their sins of rebellion and disrespect, and asked Moses to pray for them. They realized that they were dying, not just because of the snakes, but because of their rebellion against God.
Now let's stop there and apply this to ourselves. Have you ever been bitten by a snake before? I'm very thankful that that has never happened to me. I've had a lot of bug bites in my life. I've been bitten by a few dogs, but never a snake. What about you? Do you realize that all of us have been bitten by a snake, in a way? Do you remember how Adam and Eve fell into sin? They rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden when they listened to the temptation of the Devil. What disguise did the Devil take when he tempted them? He took on the form of a snake. And Adam and Eve let the Devil bite them, tempt them into sin. And that's when the deadly poison of sin entered into the world.