March 22, 2009
?Fourth Sunday in Lent (B)
“Pastor,” she said, as she began to search for a way to share her heart, “our daughter has run away.” As I listened she began to describe the problems she and her husband had been facing with their daughter. This was not the first time this had happened. Tears streamed down her face as she recounted all of what she saw as her failures as a parent. The pain was tremendous. Fear was rampant. She saw no hope.
Sadder still was the hopelessness of the daughter when we found her. She shared how she felt life was consuming her. Life was attacking one moment after another. She had looked in every wrong place for answers. She had looked everywhere except up. Her life had become a “snake pit.” Today, we see the people of God living out their lives in a snake pit instead of in victory.
I. The Dilemma
“Here we are again,” it seemed like the people of God were saying. Their journey had already been filled with misery. To cross the desert should have taken about two weeks, and they were in the midst of 40 years. They had faced many dilemmas: no permanent shelter, no real food,
hostile people. They could make a list.
All they could do was watch days turn into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. And now there were these snakes. As a result of their impatience and their murmurs against Moses and God, the Lord sent venomous snakes. There was no antidote for their bites, which caused fiery pain and death.
II. Their Solution
The pain, suffering and death of so many brought the people to Moses with a plea, “Pray that the Lord will take away the snakes.” They were aware that if something did not happen, they would all surely die. Their murmuring about how Moses had led them to the wilderness to die had taken on a whole new meaning. Their solution was simple: “Let’s repent and get Moses to call on God to get rid of the serpents.”
III. God’s Answer
As is often the case, God’s answer was not that simple. It would take more than the people being sorry that many had died. It would take more than an acknowledgment that they, too, could face death. It would require them to do something. It would require an act of faith. The Lord told Moses to make a snake and lift it on a pole. Anyone who looked up “in faith” would be healed.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this account is a part we often overlook. Reread the text. God did not take the serpents away. Verse 9 says, “when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.” God could have removed the snakes, but the people had to learn to deal with them and to face the consequences of their sin. Many may have carried physical scars from the bites for the rest of their lives.
Remember, Paul spoke of the thorn in his side. Although we are never told what that thorn was, we know Paul had to learn to be content. As he was faithful, the Lord provided all that he needed to do his work. God never promises to remove the thorns of our lives, but He does promise to provide what we need to overcome.
When our life becomes a “snake pit” and difficulties come our way-or temptation crouches at the door of our life-our solution is to be sorry that we are in trouble and expect God to just miraculously remove our snakes. God, for us, promises that when our life is filled with sin that should result in death, we also can look up and live. “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (