One Year Bible - March 26

Post Written by
Amanda Farbstein | Snake on a Stick - More than Meets the Eye

Scriptures to read:

Matthew 22:1-22; Numbers 21; Song of Solomon 1:1-2:7

Because Edom wouldn’t allow Israel to pass through their land, the Israelites had to take the long route around to get to the Promised Land (Numbers 21). They had to face the dryness and heat, the lack of food variety, and naturally found water. So they grumbled. A theme we find throughout Numbers as the Israelites wandered in the desert. This grumbling is directly referenced throughout the New Testament as what we are to avoid. (see 1 Corinthians 10, Philippians 2 for a couple). Why was this grumbling considered so grave a sin that people died (by poisonous snakes sent by God) because of it?? What do we do with the myriad of lament psalms? Even Jesus cries out, “Why have you forsaken me?” to God on the cross. And doesn’t God even command us to cast our burdens on Him? (1 Peter 5). How does grumbling differ from lament? And why is grumbling so bad?

I suspect the difference between grumbling and lamenting is that, as a friend put it, grumbling occurs within a larger implicit framework of ultimate distrust, while lament occurs within a larger implicit framework of ultimate trust. When we grumble, we are impugning God’s character. We are declaring that He isn’t good, powerful, and loving and is therefore unworthy of our trust. When we lament, we are communing with God, pouring out our confusing pain to the Creator and Redeemer and declaring that He is ultimately worthy of trust. Grumbling slanders God’s good character while lament affirms God’s good character.

Interestingly, the “cure” for the sin of grumbling in Numbers is looking at a bronze snake on a pole that Moses lifts up. Those bitten by the serpents can look at this crafted snake and be healed. In the Old Testament, bronze is indicative of judgment and the serpent is indicative of evil. Put the two together and we gaze upon the judgment of evil and sin. In John 3, Jesus directly identifies with this bronze snake: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” Jesus is the one who will judge evil as he’s lifted up on the cross. But this time it’s not just for healing from snake bites, but for the entirety of our sin.

Interestingly, looking at what Christ has done is not only salvation for sin, but the place where we find solace in lament. Jesus suffered. And Jesus was lifted up to ultimately end suffering.

Jesus lifted up on the cross offers salvation for our slander and encouragement for our trust. Whether we need forgiveness for our mistrust of God or whether we need comfort that we are right to trust Him, we look to the lifted up Messiah.

Memory Verse: Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest? He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ - Matthew 22: 36-39

Prayer: Dear Lord, show us where we need to repent of grumbling and teach us to lament to You instead. Remind us of Your trustworthiness and help us trust that the ultimate Promised Land of the New Heavens and New Earth will come. Thank You that all this is possible by Jesus’ death on the cross. Amen.