February 20, 2010

Num 21-22: The Snake and the Donkey

Posted in Disobedience, Sin Nature tagged , , , , , , , , at 9:51 pm by Steve

Raising up the brass snake is a metaphor that Jesus uses to describe his own sacrifice. When the people complained and grumbled against God’s grace, snakes infiltrated the camp and began inflicting pain and suffering on the people. Moses was instructed to raise a brass snake on a pole. The brass snake was raised, not to drive out the snakes, but to heal any who had been bitten by them and experienced their venom.

NOTE: Brass is an alloy of two metals, copper and zinc, and is often associated with sacrifice and sin.

“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.” John 3:14-15

Now, someone in that situation, with the threat of death looming close, might feel that surely he must actively do something to rescue himself from the effect of the poison.  But the Lord was showing that He must do the work.  Every snakebite victim in that particular circumstance in the wilderness was to take the passive role of trusting the Lord for the miracle of healing.  He was to merely believe God’s words, and show his trust by looking to that one way of rescue that the Lord had made available, the brass snake on the pole.  He may not have fully understood.  He may have thought it foolish.  He may have considered it an insult to his intelligence.  He may have thought such a simple act woefully inadequate.  But regardless of what one might think, the Lord had spoken!  To refuse, quite frankly showed one’s prideful rebellion against the Lord and His words.  To refuse showed one’s stubborn insistence upon trusting himself and his own inadequate resources.  To refuse was to perish! Only God’s miraculous power could reverse the effects of that poison.  Every effort of man to save himself failed and resulted in certain death.  But every soul who humbly believed God’s promise there in the wilderness, and showed his faith by looking to that brass snake, was instantly healed.

Why do you suppose God didn’t drive out the snakes?

Does it make a difference that God provides a cure without destroying the curse?

What is the snake whose venom we suffer under and for which Jesus is the cure?

In the story of Balaam and the donkey I think part of the message here is that sometimes circumstances that make us angry and frustrated often protect us from other more dangerous harms. Balaam beat his donkey three times before he understood that his donkey was actually protecting him from dangers he could not see.

Have you ever been angry and frustrated things didn’t go as you had planned, only to find out later it would have been disastrous if they had?

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February 13, 2010

Num 5-6: The Blessing

Posted in Consequences/Blessing, Priests, worship tagged , , , , , at 8:25 pm by Steve

The word benediction means blessing and the form of it below from Numbers 6 was prescribed in the law of Moses. This blessing was spoken over the people, the priest having uplifted hands, after every morning and evening sacrifice. The promise that it would be fulfilled by God was also understood and the people would say ‘Amen’ at the end of it, which really means ‘may it be so.’

The blessing, or benediction was also regularly used at the close of worship in the synagogues.

‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

 24 ” ‘ “The LORD bless you and keep you;

 25 the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;

 26 the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” ‘

 27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” [Lev 6]

This is a very common passage that is quoted often during worship services as a final blessing upon the people of God. Each of the three verses speaks of the actions of “the LORD” not the actions of humanity. It speaks to our need for God’s intervention if we are to become the people we were created to be.

The three repetitions of “the LORD” express the triune nature of God.

God the Father is the great protector

God the Son offers grace and truth.

God the Holy Spirit gives lasting peace. The phrase “turn his face toward you” is in contrast to what God says to Moses when Moses asks to see God. God says that we cannot see His face and live. Through God the Holy Spirit we embrace the fullness of God’s face.

This is God’s blessings to the people of Israel. The people wear the name of God.

Mark 10:16 And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.”

Luke 24:50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.”

How do you experience the blessings of God?

How do you “wear” the blessings of God?

How do you share the blessings of God with others?

January 24, 2010

Exo 16-18: If Only…

Posted in Foundations, Grace tagged , , , , at 7:48 pm by Steve

It was hard for me to get past the opening words “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” [16:3]

Uncomfortable Christianity is…well…uncomfortable. I know that sounds redundant, but it’s important to recognize because we prefer to live in the corollary.

Comfortable Christ is…well…comfortable, however useless that may be.

Which are you willing to choose? Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived in a time when people went along to get alone. They had a faith that didn’t demand anything of them and as a consequence they didn’t do much with it when millions depended upon them. Most of our churches are, in the words of Pink Floyd, “comfortably numb.” I suspect you are reading this blog because you want something more. We all have Bible in our homes, but how many read them? How many are joining us in this one year Bible Study? We look to the church to carry us in our faith without discipleship. If we were to trade places with the Hebrews, would we ever have made it to the Promised Land or would we all be speaking Egyptian by now?

Here are a few important quotes from The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing….p45

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. 47

Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin….