Summary: An evangelistic sermon
From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea,£ to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. 5The people spoke against God and against 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 detest this miserable food.” 6Then the LORD sent poisonous£ serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. 7The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a poisonous£ serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” 9So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live. Numbers 21:4 - 9 (NRSVA)
14And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.£ 16“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”£ John 3:14 - 21 (NRSVA)
I’m reasonably certain there are some people in this world who just adore snakes like “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin did; just nobody near this pulpit! Last year while cutting the grass in our backyard a four-mile-long man-eating snake suddenly appeared just a few feet from me; OK, he was around 4 feet...but my heart has only recently returned to a regular beat this month.
A few weeks ago Odell Routh told me about a 90-pound rattlesnake killed in Asheboro recently. Aaron Nixon was sitting next to us. I asked Aaron how much he weighed, and he said “about 90 pounds”. He smiled, and I could swear there were fangs showing. Snakes! You gotta love ‘em (who said so?).
The Florida Everglades total 1.5 million acres that team with a huge variety of exotic species, many of which are not native to the area but are the descendants of escaped pets.
After Hurricane Andrew destroyed much of the Miami Zoo in 1992, thousands of animals roamed free and reproduced in the vast confines of Everglades National Park. Animal Control people recently captured a Burmese python that was under someone’s house in Fort Lauderdale. This python was 22-feet long! Of course, experts remind us that these pythons are harmless. Right!
This morning’s Old Testament text has the stage set with zillions of vipers biting and killing Israelites. Let’s do a “CSI” kind of investigation this morning and find out where they came from. Let’s examine the trail of evidence back to the crime and catch the killer.
There’s no great surprise that the killer’s name is rebellion! God’s people rebelled, and it got them snakes! If we go back in Israel’s history we find they had been enslaved by the Egyptians for over 400 years. Moses, God’s deliverer led the people out of that bondage, but their disobedience and failing to follow God’s leadership into the Promised Land caused them to wander about in the wilderness for 40 years.
The incident before us is one of many recorded in Scripture of how unbelieving God’s people can act. In their discouragement
• they grumbled about God’s man, Moses
• they grumbled about God’s plan for them
• they even grumbled about the free food
“Moses, God…..have you all brought us out here just to die?” This grumbling was rebellion – a statement of disbelief that God could actually take care of them. Imagine the audacity of that;
• They had walked out of Egypt years before without so much as a squeal out of the Egyptian bosses, and God buried the Egyptian army in the Red Sea just for punctuation.