The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Snakes! (for Sunday, March 26)

with 5 comments

Jesus and Nicodemus

How do I keep from taking the blessings of God for granted?

“All I am, and have, and ever hope to be” (to quote the song Jesus, All for Jesus) has come from him. But doesn’t life seem ordinary most days?

So it was with our faith-ancestors on the Exodus. Delivered from slavery, provided for in impossible settings, cared for in every way – but the hardships of life soon overwhelmed their awareness of the day-to-day miracles amidst which they lived.

You’ll read of their grumbling against God in the second section, below, and a lesson Jesus takes from it as he teaches Nicodemus. What do you learn?
By the way, click on the artworks, and you’ll see more. The one above is beautifully tied to a setting of this gospel passage in French.

John 3:14-21

In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up– and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. 18Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

“This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.”

Serpent in the Wilderness

Numbers 21:4-9

The Snake of Fiery Copper
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.”

FYI, this was not the first time they’d grown discontent with the way God provided for them. The whole story is not told here, but it apparently grew to the level of rejection of God himself. This is not a moment’s expression of discomfort. It is a rebellion against God, a decision to take a different direction.

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.”

Moses prayed for the people.

GOD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it on a flagpole: Whoever is bitten and looks at it will live.”

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.

Strange, is it not? After being so very wary of the ease with which they made images and worshipped them, God himself directs the manufacture of a snake on a pole and has everyone look at it, and grants them healing for doing so. It is clear that it isn’t a “god” – in their manufactured sense – but it must have seemed similar to them. Do you suppose God’s heart toward them was so tender as to give them something that was easy for them to believe in, in the context of their idolatrous past, to help them while they were so weak?

And, is it not like him to take that very compromise and use it to become an emblem, fourteen centuries later, of the hope that Jesus brings? Wow. How secure our God is!
The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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Written by Monte

March 20, 2006 at 5:00 pm

5 Responses

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  1. Hello Lawrence, I'm glad to hear from you.
    Indeed, I think you're onto something. Could these be supporting evidence from today's readings?

    Ephesians: 4Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, 5he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us!

    I'll confess, it hadn't occurred to me to take those particular words judicially (I may be a little naive in this)! They're so tenderly relational.

    Or how about John: "Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.”

    Sounds like life!


    March 26, 2006 at 4:27 pm

  2. THanks for bothering to comment on my blog, Monte. Glad it was useful. I like the way you’ve approached the passages. I’m thinking through the issue of being under a sentence of death. The most obvious reading is that it’s a judicial statement of condemnation. But if John 10:10 is about quaality of life, perhaps the emphasis should be on a “living death” (ie living without the life of God) rather than on judicial sentence. Any thoughts?



    March 26, 2006 at 9:41 am

    Here’s a thoughtful piece that’s helping me tonight!


    March 24, 2006 at 9:41 pm

  4. Hi Amy, great to hear from you – thanks for lunching with my mom. She’s enjoyable!

    “God is teaching me not to discredit him when this happens” – can you tell me a little more about that?



    March 23, 2006 at 3:58 pm

  5. Hey, Monte. Had a very nice brunch with Bill and your mom the other day.

    These Scriptures make me so thankful that I have Jesus to look to. I was thinking the other day about what it would be like if there were no God, no understanding of someone who holds everything together. Dang! Not a pleasant thought.

    Yet I realize that there are parts of my heart that sometimes still want to run for cover when the light shines on them. God is teaching me not to discredit him in my mind when this happens, but to turn and thank him for who he is and for giving the light.


    March 21, 2006 at 1:53 pm

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