Sunday, September 13, 2009
The Brazen Serpent
A few posts back I referred to the Old Testament story of the brass image of a snake forged at the direction of Moses. When talking to Nicodemus in John chapter three, Jesus had referred to this incident:
14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
15That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Jesus likened himself to this representation of sin, which in some strange fashion rescued the chosen people of God from death. A brass serpent. Not something overlaid with gold as in the case of the holy items in the tabernacle. But something appearing common, even ugly. Something brought through the fire. A rescue not requiring the logical understanding of one's mind; not requiring payment of money or service; simply a look of faith and a tenacious holding on to the promise of God.
And what were the consequences? Reversal of the toxins in the attack of the serpents. Healing of bodies. Saving of lives. Restoration of right relationship with Jehovah-God. Grateful hearts in a rescued people who knew full well that they had not been able to save themselves; to heal themselves. A people who knew that their own rebellion had brought on the snakes.
Hear of the transaction beautifully described and predicted by the prophet Isaiah:
1Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
2For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
3He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
8He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
9And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
10Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
11He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
12Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
How unlikely a means of God-rescue! Yet how full a revelation of both the judgment and mercy of the triune God. Neither side of the equation may be down-played. To understand the fulness of the compassion and mercy bestowed upon the faithful, one must accept the horror and immutability of judgment and law. To all who are reading this article, I say, "Look and live!"
In this strange fashion victory is secured over the presence, reproach, threatenings and attacks of that old Serpent, the Devil. Sin, death and sickness are overcome.
(Picture from "The Passion of the Christ" by Icon Entertainment, Newmarket Films and Twentieth Century Fox)