Listen and Live

Numbers 21:8-9 “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’ So Moses made a bronze snake and put it on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.”

Faith finds the solution to all our problems, because faith listens to God and lives. It receives the help that God himself has to give.

Look at God’s solution for the children of Israel, the solution they received by faith. We first need to note what the word of God does not say. The snakes did not suddenly leave the Israelites alone. It even appears that the people continued to be bitten for a while. The solution God gave was not exactly what the people asked for.

Understanding that God works this way is also a part of faith. When we say that faith has the solution to all our problems, this does not imply that our trust obligates him to do everything our way. Our faith has no magical power of its own to change everything. We can’t simply believe ourselves richer, or healthier.

Faith holds the solution because it receives what God has chosen to do. True faith humbles itself under his decisions. It maintains a childlike trust that, if this is what the Lord has decided, then this must be best for me.

The second thing to understand is that God’s solutions are often difficult for us to understand. God’s ways seem foolish to human reason. In faith we trust them anyway. Take an Israelite bitten by a poisonous snake, for example. The last thing a rational person would want to do under the circumstances is look at a poisonous snake. And since when can looking at a chunk of metal hanging on a pole cure anyone of anything!?

But this was not just a chunk of metal hanging on a pole. God had given his word. He had connected his promise with this bronze snake, and that made all the difference in the world! If God said looking at this snake would heal them, then it must be so. And when people listened in faith, they lived!

This was not a rare or unique way for the Lord to work. The most important truths of our salvation work the same way. Consider the foolishness of what God has done in Christ. The main problems of all mankind are sin and death. These exist because we have rebelled against God. So, when God wants to save us, what does he do? Gather all his armies of angels, muster all his glory and power, and sweep through the earth to purify it from sin?

No. Jesus comes as a modest, even weak-looking human being. He looks just like the ones who started this whole problem in the first place–so much so, in fact, that many people of his day, and many in our own, can’t believe that he was ever anything more than just another man. Then, to top it all off, the one who came to save people from death, dies himself.  They lift him up on a pole, a cross, like this bronze snake. He hangs there for all the world to see. This is God’s solution for death, his formula for eternal life?

Those who listen in faith hear their Savior speaking. They listen to God’s promises. Though they can’t see it with their eyes, they believe God’s word that their sins have been lifted off their backs. Jesus disposed of them on that cross.

And though we still see one believer after another succumb to death, we know that someday they will rise and live. God has promised. In faith we listen and live.

Such a faith which listens and lives knows that all of God’s promises are reliable. Perhaps the most precious word in these verses is the little word “then.” “Then, when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.” In the King James it is translated “It came to pass.” Either way, it tells us that God’s promise worked. Hard as it might be to believe, what the Lord promised would happen, happened.

Isn’t that a comfort? Doesn’t this invite our trust, stir our faith, and give us hope? How many promises of God do we have? Forgiveness and eternal life are certainly the greatest, but a huge list encompassing all of life follows them. He will be with you always. God will provide all you need according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Do not worry about what you will eat or what you will wear: Seek his kingdom first, and he will give you all those things as well. He will answer your prayers. He will not let you be separated from his love. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. No one can snatch you out of his hands.

Listen to his promise, believe it, and you will live forever. Listen to his promise, believe it, and you will live under his blessing every day.

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