Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Amazing Race #3 of 4: Highs In The Wilderness

Snakes On A Plain

This week Brett, full of the Holy Spirit, spontaneously improvised the most astounding sermon that any preacher has ever given ever. The lame were healed, the dead were raised, and thousands committed their lives to Christ. Unfortunately, the podcast recorder stuffed-up. Sorry everyone.

However, in his own words, here are the main points again, preceded by the reading...

The Bronze Snake

They travelled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea,[a] to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!"

Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, "We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us." So Moses prayed for the people.

The LORD said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live."

a. Or the Sea of Reeds

- Numbers 21:4-8 (NIV)

1. Slow Forward

The 2nd generation of Israelites, born after the Exodus, were impatient for the Promised Land. They began to resent their circumstances – the shortage of food and water and God’s command to travel around Edom – and to reject God’s provision for their lives.

When we resent the present, we end up rejecting the God who lives with us "in the present"… God has been in our past and he is in our future, but his presence (surprisingly) is in our present. An obsession with our circumstances banishes God from our lives.

2. Circumstances and Consequence

As a result of the people’s rebellion they become plagued with serpents. Moses prays for the people but God does not take away the snakes. He does not shorten the journey. The menu stays the same. The circumstances remain as they were.

Instead, for a lack of trust – he prescribes faith - For rebellion he prescribes obedience. And faith looks a lot like keeping their eyes on who God is and not on themselves or their own circumstances. Obedience looks a lot like, not avoiding what God has put in place in their lives, but pursuing those things he has called them to.

3. Circumstantial Evidence?

In John 3:1-16 Jesus identifies himself with the Bronze Snake that Moses lifted up. Like the Bronze Snake, Jesus is a target of faith. Jesus is a source of healing. Jesus is everlasting life with God. Jesus who entered the present, submerged himself in the physical world of circumstances - just 2 chapters back in John 1, John speaks of Jesus as becoming flesh and dwelling among us.

Which in a sense, like the Bronze Snake, was a breach of the second commandment as well. God made his own graven image. Jesus. He sculpted him from flesh. So hard for us to package God, but in Jesus we see God perfectly revealed in a human life.

Is Jesus the target of our faith? Or are our circumstances a false idol?

This Week's Challenge:


Allow the impact of your circumstances on the presence of God in your life to become clearer this week. Take time to reflect at the end of each day - record your reflections: Where was God in your day? When did his presence seem distant? Ask for strength to be content in any circumstance:

"... I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

- Philippians 4:11b-13 (NIV)

Take this with you into your week and place it in a prominent place.

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