Numbers 21:4-9 (Part 2) – C’mon Girl! Look Down at Your Dessert!

Posted: October 5, 2016 in 04-Numbers

Numbers 21:4-9 (Part 2 of 2)

The Bronze Snake

She wouldn’t look down! That’s the phrase I use when I describe the night that I proposed to Elena. At the time that we got engaged, February 14, 2009, ours was a bi-coastal relationship. I had been sent to California, originally as a consultant, to help clean up the accounting mess that was Fujikura America, Inc. (FAI). FAI is a subsidiary of the company I was doing consulting work for in Duncan, SC when I was living in the Charlotte area. In May 2008, I was sent out to FAI to assist in getting the division up to speed from an accounting and internal control standpoint. Things had gotten so bad out there that no one at Corporate in Duncan truly trusted the financial statements or any type of report coming out of the Finance Department at FAI. It was THAT bad. By October 6, 2008, the pitiful excuse for a controller that FAI had at that time decided to leave the company. Within 24 hours after her departure, management offered me the job as controller. So, what was originally a temporary consulting gig where I would be out there for six months and come back home to South Carolina became a permanent job in California.


Having said all that, we lived a bi-coastal relationship from May 2008 until August 2009 when Elena moved out to California to be with me. Fifteen months of me flying back to South Carolina or Elena flying out to California. Fifteen months of seeing each other for a quick weekend every three to four weeks. Fifteen months of chatting on Facebook IM every night. Fifteen months of video chats here and there (when the wireless signal was strong enough). It was tough on our relationship but we survived and, as the famous line from Steel Magnolias states, that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I think that’s why our relationship is strong as it is today. It’s because of the hardship of dating cross-country for 15 months caused us to appreciate each other’s presence. We don’t sweat the small stuff in our relationship because we know what is like to want to be with someone but there is in an entire continent between you that can do nothing about. We just appreciate the fact that we are together more because of the physical distance that was once horribly between us.


Right in the midst of that time apart, Valentine’s Day happened to fall on a weekend so I made plans for her to fly out to the Bay Area, where I was working, and I was going to show her a special weekend in Napa Valley. It was a surprise to Elena because normally when she would come out we would hang out at my place in Fremont and go into the city (San Francisco) to do sightseeing, etc. It would be the first time that either of us were to have been in the wine country of Napa. We did the winery tours. Ate well. Enjoyed the natural beauty of Napa.


With all that background set, on Saturday, February 14th, I had planned for us to visit this restaurant that was in this old farmhouse that had been converted into this frew-frew restaurant. For the life of me, I cannot remember the name of that restaurant. Elena just thought I was putting on the ritz for our Valentine date. It was our third Valentine’s date since we started dating in October 07. So, she figured, no big deal, Mark is just being his sweet self planning an awesome evening for me. However, this one was different. After we arrived and were seated, I pretended to have to go the restroom and then found my waiter. I had explained to him that I wanted to propose to my girlfriend at that I needed his help. I explained that I wanted him to put the engagement ring on top of this chocolate dessert that I had seen in the pastries case when we came in the door. Being a good waiter and a closet romantic, he gladly obliged. So, as I nervously made it through dinner, knowing what was about to happen. I could barely eat. Finally we got through all the courses. Trying to show gentlemanly chivalry, I order the dessert for her but declined for myself and just asked for coffee.  You know, “the lady and I will have the chocolate tort or whatever and I will have a cup of coffee, cream, two sugars…”. Then, a little nervous conversation ensued on my part as we waited for our dessert. It seemed like an eternity. Finally, the waiter came with her dessert. But hers was different. The chocolate dessert had the engagement nicely and cleanly placed on top of the dessert. It was noticeable and could easily be retrieved by her without getting chocolate on her fingers. The waiter though added a special touch that I had not asked for. He had written on the large rim of the plate, the words, “Will You Marry Me?” When he sat it down, he placed the plate in such a way that the words would be easily read by Elena.


However, I guess the waiter had forgotten my coffee so Elena continued having a conversation with me as she waited. The dessert was right there in front of her. However, she was not starting to eat the dessert as she assumed we were waiting on my coffee. She would not look down. The life-altering dessert with its bounty was just below her. BUT SHE WOULD NOT LOOK DOWN. I kept looking at her and looking down at the dessert plate with its monumental question addressed to her around its rim. She would not look down. No matter how many suggestive looks I gave the dessert and back to her eyes. Look at her and down at the dessert plate. Look at her. Look at the plate. I was hoping that would give her a clue. But having been raised in a doctor’s home with a Latino background, manners were a premium I guess. No one eats dessert until everyone is served I guess. She would not look down at her dessert! Finally, I had to tell her LOOK AT YOUR PLATE! When she gazed down, she finally saw it. It was the gazed that changed her life and mine forever. She was speechless at what she gazed upon. We had both been through two failed marriages so this was no ordinary proposal. It was the risk that we said we would never take again. But the gaze at the dessert was a life changer. It meant that our life as we knew would never be the same again. It was the gaze downward that would be a game changer. It was that gaze downward that would save us from the lives that we were currently living and trusting that the Lord would make our path different from before. But it all started with looking down. She wouldn’t look down…has become one of the go-to stories of our relationship. But finally she looked down. Finally after a few awkward speechless seconds (imagine that, Elena speechless…LOL!), she said YES. But it would not have happened if she did not look down!


It was that story that came to mind this morning as I thought about this passage, Numbers 21:4-9, for a second time this morning. It was our Napa engagement weekend in reverse. Where I desired Elena to look down and thereby change our lives from that point forward, God directed His people to look upward at the bronze snake so that they could live and not die.


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.


When the bronze snake was hung on a pole, the Israelites did not realize the fuller meaning that it had as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus explained that just as the Israelites were healed of their snake bites by looking up at the bronze snake on a pole, all believers in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord can be saved from the sickness of sin by gazing up at the cross and believing that Jesus is who He says He is and was doing for us what He said He was doing for us. It was not the snake that healed the people. It was their belief that God could heal them by doing what He said. Jesus died on the cross for our sins but it is all folly if you do not believe that the death of the Son of God on that pole was for your sins. It is meaningless unless you gaze up at the cross with full-on belief that Jesus is the Son of God. It is meaningless if you do not believe that God was solving our sin problem in the only way that He could by pouring it out on His Son. His Son the perfect sinless sacrifice. It is all meaningless if you do not have faith. Jesus is just another dead prophet. Jesus was just a political revolutionary that paid the price for it. Jesus was just another nice guys with a lot of sayings to live buy – a great philosopher. He is just a guy who bucked the status quo and paid for it with His life. However, if you just have the faith the size of a mustard seed and believe on faith that Jesus Christ is who He says He is and that He died on the cross for your sins you will be saved. But it all begins with gazing at the cross in humble wonder at what Christ has done. You will be healed. Your life will be changed. It will be different from this point forward when you gaze up at the cross in awe and wonder. It will leave you speechless as you grasp God’s love as expressed through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. You will look up in awe and wonder. Your life will never be the same when you look up at the cross and truly believe for the first time that it is for you that He is doing this.


For Elena, it was the looking down that changed everything. For us as Christians, it is the looking up at the cross that changes everything.


Amen and Amen.

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