Hi, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me.”
As Moses was leading the Israelites to the promised land, the desert lacked many conveniences they were accustomed to. In today’s story, the people are complaining again to God and Moses. They said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!’”
Clearly, God and Moses haven’t studied management theory on “How to Meet and Exceed Customer Expectations.” If their monthly survey of the people asked, “How likely are you to recommend this experience to your friends and family?” the people would give them a net promoter score of zero.
But God wasn’t trying to increase his approval ratings. His goal was to teach the people to quit complaining. So he sent poisonous snakes into the crowd and people started dying. This got their attention, so they said to Moses, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
God gave Moses a solution. Put a bronze snake up on a pole in the middle of the crowd. Anyone who lis bitten can look at the bronze snake and live.
Odd, isn’t it? Create an image of a poisonous snake, post it in a public place, and look at it and live? I would have thought a better solution would be to get rid of the snakes.
Here are three quick comments on this passage
1. Most of us want our lives to be comfortable, well-fed, and and well-watered. Maybe even a glass of wine occasionally. And we think that God, if there is a God, should commit himself to making our world a better place — surely he could alleviate war and hunger and injustice. But that’s not the program God has designed for our world. Life is a desert journey. Is this really what we signed up for?
2. Second, the solution is not to complain. In an Agatha Raisin novel by E. M. Beaton, Agatha’s neighbour complains to her about everything that is wrong with the Cotswold village in which they live and the people who live there. The author says, “Mrs Hardy’s words seeped like poison into [Agatha’s] brain” (M. C. Beaton, “Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage.” New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997.)
Complaining is like that. We create our own snakes that poison our view and narrow our vision. God has a different plan. If we receive this desert journey as a gift, it will strip away our shallow complaints and bring us face to face with the truth.
3. And third, the solution is to face squarely the things that bite us. God’s salvation for us complainers is to look away from ourselves, to a place where we see our problems displayed and objectified. A snake on a pole or a man on a cross can expose our sins and heal the poison that infects us.
Our Father, we are habitual complainers. We have summoned the snakes that poison our bodies and destroy our relationships. We see the devastation complaining has brought. So we turn our eyes to the snake on the pole. Make us healthy and thankful. Amen.
I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.