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December 2, 2021 – Numbers 21:9 & John 3:14-18

Rather lengthy, today, I suppose, but here goes . . . In the book of Numbers is an episode to which Jesus explicitly refers and connects to himself: “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” (Numbers 21:9). In the wilderness, threatened by enemies, Israel petitioned God, and “the Lord heeded the voice of Israel and gave over the Canaanites” (Numbers 21:3). Rather than thanking God, they complained against him and against Moses. God disciplined them by sending serpents among the people “so that many people of Israel died” (Numbers 21:6). In his mercy, though, God provided an escape: “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live’” (Numbers 21:8).

Jesus identified himself and his cross as that to which this episode pointed: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (John 3:14,15). And, then, follows that wonderful application that is found in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world . . .”

On November 20th, 1859, from Numbers 21, Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon he entitled “Man’s Ruin and God’s Remedy.” Spurgeon’s point? The ruin that sin effects can be remedied only by God’s provision in Christ. On October 19, 1879, on the occasion of the publication of his 1,500th sermon, in expressing his thankfulness, Spurgeon preached from (What else?) Numbers 21 the sermon “Lifting Up the Brazen Serpent.” In it, he wished “to preach Jesus Christ again, and set Him forth in a sermon in which the simple gospel should be made as clear as a child’s alphabet.” From this text, Spurgeon was able to make this entreaty: “All you that are really guilty, all you who are bitten by the serpent, the sure remedy for you is to look to Jesus Christ, who took our sin upon Himself, and died in the sinner’s stead, being made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Your only remedy lies in Christ, and nowhere else. Look unto Him and be ye saved.” As far as I can tell, the following verse was written by Spurgeon himself. It is the heart-cry of the sinner who would be saved.

Faint my head, and sick my heart,

Wounded, bruised, in every part,

Satan's fiery sting I feel

Poisoned with the pride of hell:

But if at the point to die,

Upward I direct mine eye,

Jesus lifted up I see,

Live by him who died for me.

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