Raise your hand if you thought the title is referring to how I woke up this morning…haha! Fortunately, it is a bright and sunny day here on the Outer Banks but that’s not to say that there are times when we wake up irritable and cross. What do you do to remove that dark cloud when it happens to you? When those around you are irritable and cross…say, your children/spouse/co-workers…how do you react?
In today’s passage we see God “reaching his very last nerve,” as we say in the South. The children of Israel had been set free by the power of his own hand. They were being delivered into a Promised Land of milk and honey that he provided. They were safe, whole, and free.
And irritable. And cross. And wholly ungrateful.
Hence, the last nerve.
Their constant complaining reached a point that exacerbated even the patience of God. When their shouts of “why did you free us from beatings, starvation, and slavery just to have to eat this lousy food” became too much, God responded.
Numbers 21 (The Message)
4-5 They set out from Mount Hor along the Red Sea Road, a detour around the land of Edom. The people became irritable and cross as they traveled. They spoke out against God and Moses: “Why did you drag us out of Egypt to die in this godforsaken country? No decent food; no water—we can’t stomach this stuff any longer.”
6-7 So God sent poisonous snakes among the people; they bit them and many in Israel died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke out against God and you. Pray to God; ask him to take these snakes from us.”
The extreme reaction of God sending biting snakes might catch you off guard today. We tend to focus on God as our “forever friend” so much that we belittle his right and need to discipline his children in the way that he sees fit. But read on:
Moses prayed for the people.
8 God said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it on a flagpole: Whoever is bitten and looks at it will live.”
9 So Moses made a snake of fiery copper and put it on top of a flagpole. Anyone bitten by a snake who then looked at the copper snake lived.
Even in this, God redeems his people. He fashions a substitute that would take on the sins of the nation and cheat death. He raises up a coppery snake as an atonement for sin. Why? Because the people repented. The leadership prayed for mercy. They confessed their sin.
If a metal snake on a flagpole can do this under God’s authority, how much more powerful is the action of Christ raised on a pole of wood? When God sent his son as a substitute offering for your sin, he guaranteed your eternal life.
So turn your eyes upon Jesus. Confess, repent, and believe. There you will find forgiveness that ensures that you will live forever and sin will no longer be able to bite you to death.