Sin was rampant in the desert as Moses led a nation of whiners and complainers to the Promised Land. Time after time they saw God do amazing work in their lives. He conquered the will of the Pharoah through a series of ever-increasing plagues. They crossed through the Red Sea as its raging waters formed protective walls around them. Food from heaven fell around them. They saw the cloud of his presence settle over the tabernacle just as they heard his voice booming from the mountain.
Yet, they built the golden calf. They choose fear instead of faith when the spies reported on the wonders they had seen in the land of milk and honey. They rebelled against God’s chosen leader.
In Numbers 21, they began to cry their familiar refrain of discontent, accusing God of bringing them into the desert to die. The punishment they deserved followed swiftly as poisonous snakes were sent among them. The mercy and atonement they needed came just as swiftly.
And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. – Numbers 21:7-9
Sin was rampant in the territories controlled by Rome as Jesus walked the earth. Time after time, the people saw this curious Rabbi from Galilee perform miracles. He healed the blind, made the lame walk and the deaf hear. He fed more than 5,000 people at one sitting and calmed a storm with a single word.
Yet, they cried out for crucifixion. They challenged his teaching. They tried to trap him in their questions. They turned away when the teaching became too difficult or too personal.
Even early in his ministry as he discussed the matters of heaven with a man of earth, Jesus looked to the future and to the atonement and mercy that would flow from his own broken heart as he poured out his life on the cross.
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. – John 3:14-15
Sin runs rampant in the world today.
Are we still looking to the One who was lifted up?