Sunday, September 14, 2003

Holy Cross Day
Numbers 21:4b-9
Psalm 98:1-5
1 Corinthians 1:18-24
John 3:13-17

Oh sing unto Jehovah a new song; For he hath done marvellous things: His right hand, and his holy arm, hath wrought salvation for him.

Ever widening circles benefit from the marvelous things God has done. In Psalm 98, we are called to sing to the Lord a new song. He has revealed His salvation in love and faithfulness to His people Israel, and through them His salvation is revealed to the nations. Even the whole creation is called to sing for joy over His goodness and mercy. God saved Israel so that His righteousness would be revealed to the whole world. They were not saved for themselves or by their own works, but for the glory of God.

But God's way of salvation seems ridiculous in our world. Take, for example, the work in the wilderness. Poisonous snakes were biting the people of Israel. They were dying in large numbers and cried out to the Lord. "We have sinned, because we have spoken against Jehovah and against thee." What could possibly have been so bad that they should suffer such a terrible calamity? They became discouraged and grumbled about the hardships of the wilderness. They wanted to know why they were brought out of the comforts of Egypt to die in the middle of nowhere. They were hungry and thirsty and they wanted to go home. They saw nothing good ahead of them and even despised the manna from heaven. I'm not sure my response would have been much different.

But they did do a terrible thing. They rejected God's grace. The life they were leading in Egypt was not comfortable. They were slaves. He delivered them from bondage and was taking them to the Promised Land. He protected them from the dangers of the wilderness and from their enemies. He fed them with a heavenly food. The grace of God does marvelous things for His people.

But they rejected it al. And He sent them the snakes. We find this incredible. Why would God do such a horrible thing? If it were me with my kids, I would have probably just said, "Fine, do what you please. Go find your own food. Go back to Egypt." I certainly have done this with Vicki and Zack. When they have rejected the good things I've given, I have turned my back - if only for a moment - and let them fend for themselves. The consequences are generally not bad, but they could be disastrous. Such and attitude has sent many kids onto the streets as they run from uncaring parents. On the streets, they face disease, physical harm and even death. They do anything to survive - drugs, sex, and violence. Unfortunately, too many die before they can repent.

What if God had just turned His back? What if the Israelites had turned around and went back to Egypt? They would not have found peace or contentment. The Egyptians would not have welcomed them. They would have faced the unmercilous sword of an enemy.

God sent the snakes and in their despair Israel turned to God. "We have done wrong. Save us." And He did. Again we see the strange way God does His work. Rather than removing the evil things harming His people, God tells Moses to make a bronze snake. "...and it shall come to pass that everyone that is bitten when he seeth it, shall live." They were not taken from the danger, but were saved from its effects.

One of the most common complaints I hear from non-Christians is the question of suffering in the world. "Why does God allow good people to die?" That's where we err. There are none who are good, none but the One whom God sent to save the world. On our own, we reject the grace of God. We go looking for something better than what we have. We turn away from God our Father and try to do things our own way. Jesus Christ, however, is the perfect Son of God. He was sent as a bronze snake in the desert of our world to be lifted high and provide the salvation we who have been bitten by sin, death and the devil really need.

It seems to me there must have been an easier way. Couldn't God just get rid of all the bad stuff? Couldn't the all-powerful God create a utopian world where there is no sin or devil? Adam and Eve lived in Paradise and still turned from God. The Israelites had everything they could possibly need, and they grumbled about God's grace. We are no better. So, rather than take us out of the world, God gives us something to look toward for salvation, His Son. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life."

The pole on which Jesus was lifted was the cross. Only there will we see salvation.

Paul writes, "For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God." I wonder how many Israelites still died from snakebites in the wilderness. They whole idea of such salvation is ridiculous, even more so for those who live in our world today. We certainly see a great many men who reject the grace of God, who do not look toward the cross for salvation. It is too ridiculous to believe. Intelligent people don't fall for myth or live their life around such foolishness. Or so they tell me. But God does not do what we expect. One day two thousand years ago, He turned the world upside down by lifting the Savior onto a cross for all to see.

It was first the Jews and then the Gentiles who heard the Good News of Christ crucified, that they might look to Him to be saved. Since that day we sing a new song, a song of joy for the marvelous thing He has done. Jesus is the right hand of God, the Holy One, who revealed the salvation of God to the world by being the Savior on the cross. Sing to the LORD! Alleluia, thanks be to God.

Back to Midweek Oasis Index Page