Summary: LENT 4(B) - Keep looking up and you will see our Lord’s loving discipline and you will see our loving Lord’s forgiveness.
KEEP LOOKING UP (Outline)
NUMBERS 21:4-9 - March 6, 2005 - LENT 4
INTRO: Different people have different attitudes in this life. Some are positive attitudes and some are negative. Today we will learn that a Christian life displays a very positive attitude. For people of the world really have nothing to be happy about in the end. All their struggles, hopes, and dreams always fall short of their expectations. Everything earthly is subject to corruption, decay and utter destruction. That will certainly lead to a very negative attitude. What makes the Christian positive in this world of sin? Our focus is not just on this life. Our focus looks above for the things that are still yet to come. Believers keep looking up. "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is tem-porary, but what is unseen is eternal"(2 CORINTHIANS 4:18). From the example of Israel in today’s text you and are encouraged to KEEP LOOKING UP. As we KEEP LOOKING UP we will I. see our Lord’s loving discipline and we will II. see our loving Lord’s forgiveness.
I. SEE OUR LORD’S LOVING DISCIPLINE
A. The children of Israel were close to finishing their 40 years of wilderness wandering.
1. In the land of Edom they were in sight of the Promised Land.
2. But the king of Edom refused to let Israel travel through his country.
B. In verse 4 Israel turns back from Edom and returns to the wilderness. Their journey will be longer.
1. Naturally the people were not happy. They want God to fulfill his promise.
2. Israel wanted deliverance. They wanted it now. Verse 5 records their complaints against God.
C. They complained about the Lord’s providing for them. They were tired of traveling.
1. Everyday they had been given manna -- not good enough. Their clothes did not wear out.
2. The Lord’s discipline is drastic and swift. Snakes came and caused many deaths in verse 6.
D. Are we much different than these ungrateful children of Israel? Who among us does not think from time-to-time or maybe quite often that we deserve even more and better things out of this life? After all, the world preaches that the only way to be happy is to have lots of stuff. The world would have everyone believe that happiness can only be found in materialism. To that end the world offers all kinds of get-rich schemes. Sometimes we fall into the snares of this worldly philosophy. Instead of looking up we look around us and grumble and complain about those who seem better off than ourselves. We have become friends of the world instead of God. "You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God" (JAMES 4:4).
E. Our human nature consistently and constantly complains against the unfairness of this life. We never have enough. We always want more, more, more. When we get more, more, more it is never quite what we expected. Satisfaction with what the Lord provides is not always what is should or ought to be. We open our bulletins and see the offerings. Not enough. We open the open bulletin and see the attendance figures. Not enough. As we keep looking with earthly eyes it would be easy to have a very negative atti-tude. We can all too often easily forget that is purely by God’s abundant grace that there are any people in worship who freely and joyfully contribute to God’s kingdom. Today, again the Lord reminds to keep looking up. Solomon prays: "Give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ’Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God"(PROVERBS 30:8b, 9). We pray this in the Lord’s Prayer – trusting the Lord to provide daily.
F. The more we plot and plan to get ahead in this life the more our Lord reminds us that he is in control. May it never be among any of us that our Lord would use the very drastic discipline of death to cause us to come closer to him. Yet we know it is through much tribulation that we must enter into the kingdom of God. Paul had a thorn in the flesh to remind him that in weakness the believer sees the strength and love of God. Those times, which seem trying to us help us to keep looking up. Difficult times focus our atten-tion and vision away from ourselves and back toward the Lord. "I know, O LORD, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps. Correct me, LORD, but only with justice--not in your anger, lest you reduce me to nothing"(JEREMIAH 10:23,24).