March 21, 2016

Numbers 21:8-9 The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.

From our current perspective this is one of the more bizarre incidents in the whole Bible, right up there with the talking donkey. (Numbers 22:28) To modern theology it seems like pure superstition, yet Jesus explicitly said that it was a foreshadowing of His crucifixion. (John 3:14) The thing is, faith needs an object, and at the time, the people were so generally ignorant of God that He had Moses make them a physical object that they could relate to. In a sense it really was superstition, but they were unable to relate to God on a higher level at that point. Protestants tend to despise Catholics for all the physical objects – statues, medallions and the like – they use, but there is a difference between that and idolatry. Sometimes the line is very fine, and sometimes it is crossed, but physical objects don’t automatically equal the “graven images” of the 10 Commandments. That said, that line can indeed be crossed, and even the snake in this story made it across that line later in Israel’s history, so that King Hezekiah had to destroy it. (2 Kings 18:4) That shows the complicated nature of faith. Jesus said this prefigured His supreme act of salvation, yet it had to be destroyed because people were worshiping the thing rather than God Himself. Actually, this happens on many levels, and not just the physical. Denominations often fall into this trap, when people become more zealous for their organization than they are for Jesus Christ. The organization might have been as much God’s idea as the snake was, but it is just as temporary.

This issue is actually a major reason why I chose the non-denominational route for my ministry. I have seen so many walls thrown up within the Body of Christ over labels and terminology. However, my very non-denominationalism could become a stumbling block for me, if I let pride in it make me feel superior to my brothers and sisters in Christ. I am not to abandon the positions I feel God has shown me through His Word, but I am to share those gently, in love and respect, and not place the position ahead of Christ in my heart. I am not to despise traditions, but neither am I to cling to them once their purpose is gone. I am to remember that everything on this earth is temporal, temporary, and keep my heart fixed on the eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for the day yesterday and for how encouraging it was. Help me remember all the time that I don’t know what’s really going on, so that I won’t let what I see tie me in knots. Help me indeed rest, relax, and rejoice in You, responding to You with gratitude and obedience at all times, so that Your will may be done in and through me for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!


About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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