Numbers 21:4-9 (Part 1) – My Dear Friends Who Are Burning Their Tree House Down…

Posted: October 4, 2016 in 04-Numbers
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Numbers 21:4-9 (Part 1 of 2)

The Bronze Snake

Man, are you not tired of the whining and complaining of the Israelites? These guys are just never happy. Seems as though in every chapter, they are complaining about something. It’s like going on a long trip with your kids. Are we there yet? Are we there yet? He’s touching me. He’s on my side of the car! He’s picking his nose and trying to put boogers on me! I gotta pee! Do we have to go to grandma’s house? Are we there yet? It is funny and maddening all at the same time. Kids don’t realize that there every need has been met but yet they on focus on the moment or focus on what they don’t have. Rather than observing the beauty of the world around them, they focus on what they don’t have. Rather than focus on seeing new things on the journey, they focus on what they don’t have. Whining and complaining.


I know we are all like kids on a long trip at times in our lives. Sometimes, we intentionally sabotage our lives and then complain at the result. I have some friends who are suffering through marital trouble because of sin and yet they complain about their lives. Both have done things that have disrespected their marriage and their spouse. Both refuse to be the one to change. Rather, they focus on seeking only what they want and complain because the other one does not give that to them. They would rather justify their own actions by the sin of the other. Just as the Israelites were wandering in the desert because they refused to trust God and complained about the conditions of their lives, I see the same with these two friends. Neither is willing to trust God with the sins of the other and would rather complain about the condition of their lives on the other. Neither is willing to take their focus off the sins of the other and see their own sin for what it is. This marriage will never be healed as long as each of them are blaming the other’s sins as the break point for their own behavior. The marriage right now reminds me of that movie, The War, with Kevin Costner and Elijah Wood. The battle begins over supremacy over a tree house built by one group of kids and then another group of kids try to take it over. By the end of the “war” sequence toward the end of the movie, the tree house catches on fire and there is nothing left to win. These two are burning their tree house down. In the movie, the only thing that changed the all out war between the two groups was an act of selfless love by Elijah Wood’s character by helping save the littlest brother of the other group from drowning. The near-death of the little boy took their focus off their war and put things into perspective. Each group realized that family and friends were more valuable that some old tree house. When are my friends going to realize that they have the potential to be this awesome couple, one a brilliant man with the ability to teach that is amazing, the other a super-talented artist who could be far more than a local artist. They could be this dynamic couple who could be so much more than they are right now. Right now their concentrating on burning their tree house down rather than focusing on what they do have. Both must quit whining and complaining about each other and look their own sins square in the face and repent. Both most see their marriage as more important than their own desires and hurts. But must look up to the Lord rather than at each other’s faults. Both must work on themselves and their own sins rather than pointing the finger at the other’s sins.


At the same time, the Lord provides for them regardless of their kids on the long trip back seat squabbles that they are having. They have so much to be thankful for if they would just see beyond pointing at their spouse’s sin. They have four bright, intelligent children. God has provided them with a home that is perfect for their large family. The Lord has provided the husband with a job that is right down his alley as the academic that he is. A brilliantly gifted teacher finds a job teaching Bible to middle schoolers at a Christian school. That is God all in that. That’s not just random. The Lord has provided the wife with numerous opportunities around town and in schools to express her amazing talent as a visual artist. She is a budding artist who could become world renowned one day, I just know it. The kids are apples close to the tree as well. Each one with wonderfully unique talents that will take them far. However, there is a pall over this family as the husband and wife self-destruct their God-given tree house. Although God amazing provides for this family at every turn. They can’t see the miracles for complaining about each other and using their spouse’s shortcomings as a reason to continue in their own sins.


I just want to say to them, “wake up before it’s too late!” God has blessed you two even when you have been completely disobedient to Him. He is blessing you right now and you can’t even see it. They are the Israelites wandering in the wilderness having their needs met at every turn, but yet complaining about the fact that they are in the desert. They fail to see the miracles that God has given them. They fail to see how God has provided for them in miraculous fashion even though they have put themselves in the desert. Can’t they see that God is doing this because He has something special in store for them. He is holding on for them until they wake up and take hold of what God has in store for them. Wake up. Wake up. Give forgiveness. Be the change that you seek in your marriage. When you both quit wallowing in your sins and complaints and justifications, God will use you in ways that I cannot even imagine. I pray for them. They could be this awesome couple that soars with the eagles and impacts many, many lives in ways that my wife and I could only imagine. They have so much talent and so much to offer as a disciple-making couple, but right now they are mired in looking horizontally rather than looking vertically to the Lord. Right now they are focused on what’s wrong with their sibling in the back seat on a long trip. Right now, they are focused on the fact that the manna is the same every day. Right now, they are focused on defending the tree house. Right now, they are focused on what’s wrong instead of what’s right. Right now, they are focused on pointing out what’s wrong with the other rather than repenting of their own sins. Right now, they are whining and complaining while the manna of provision is dropping on the dewy grass around them.


My dear friends are what came immediately to mind when I read through this passage for the first time today. I know that the classic view of this passage is about the similarities of the bronze snake on a pole to Jesus Christ on the cross is the big point of the passage (and we will deal with that tomorrow), but first I wanted to address the issue of the complaints that lead to the poison that almost destroyed the Israelites. Let’s read the passage now together, Numbers 21:4-9:


4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea,[a] to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and 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!”


6 Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “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.


8 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.” 9 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, they lived.


Are you whining and complaining? How’s that going for you? Are you failing to see the amazing ways that God provides for you even when you are not looking or noticing? Are you whining and complaining as you pick up your daily manna? Are you destroying a good thing by focusing on the negative things? Let us see God’s provision and be thankful for it. I know that I could be living on the street in a moment’s notice if it were not for the provision of God and the miracle that He lets me do what I do and get paid for it. There are so many stupid decisions that I have made in my life that forced me to wander in the desert for years but yet the Lord still provided for this arrogant proud sinner. He was waiting for me to wake up and look up at Him as the provision for my life. He was waiting for me to grab hold of what He had in store for my life rather than focusing on my self-centered and destructive ways. We waste so much time in our sins and not taking hold of the hand of God. We waste so much time trying to justify our sins that we fail to see what God is doing in our lives. We waste so much time pointing out what’s wrong with our lives and with the lives of those who have hurt us rather than seeing the amazing provision of God even when we are not looking. There’s a big pointing finger, a neon sign, of God’s provision that we are ignoring while mired on our complaints. We are Debbie Downer at Disney World. God’s provision abounds around us and we want to burn the tree house down. Help us Lord, oh help us to see your miracles. To see your provision. To be thankful that you love us even when we are rebellious in our sins. Thankful that you provide even when we shake our fist at you. Help us Lord to grab hold of your miracles and be obedient to you and take hold of what you have had planned for us all along.


Amen and Amen.

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