April 27, 2012

Revealing Christ In The Old Testament IV: God's Way or The Highway


Among many other things, in Numbers 21 we see in particular the foreshadowing or the typology of the Son of Man who will come and be " lifted up" in the narrative of the bronze snake (John 3:14,15)

"They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 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. 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.” 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, he lived." ~ Numbers 21:4-9

Here we see an image of God laying down a stipulation for salvation or saving of a life. Do what you have been told in obedience and belief...and you shall live. If not, you will die. The people doing this was thereby an expression of their faith. To look upon the snake as God said to be healed was to act in faith on something God had commanded. The bronze serpent was God's way. It was a call to faith in God and to the way of healing He established. His way or the highway. He said it would happen and they believed. Just as God said that a Messiah would come to restore the Kingdom... and He did. We then see a furtherance of this idea elaborated on in John 3, all of which points definitively and unquestionably to Jesus Christ.

You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. John 3:10-15

If we look back to the very first mention of the serpent in the Bible we gain context to understanding this passage. We understand that in Adam sin entered the world and all are fallen.

"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned-To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come." Romans 5:12-14

Usually the sight of a snake on a pole would be abhorrent to the Jewish mindset but I guess when it is the only thing that is going to save you, your personal qualms dissolve rather quickly. This image of the snake obviously conjures up the unsavory aspects of Genesis 3 and the Fall of man mitigated by the "serpent who was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made." In the case of the Bronze serpent though, it meant lifting up the symbol of the very thing that was killing them. This imagery is not too far removed from the truth of Christ when we realize that the judgment for sin is death. Death instituted by the Fall. The Fall thereby instituted by God who implemented it as judgment for man's rebellion against God. Yet God offers Himself to save them, the very One that instituted death into the Creation as the Curse. Geez!!!, you'd think this was planned...

Jesus (through John) also used this vivid image to teach us what the death of Christ really means. God took the hated symbol of Roman torture and oppression (the cross) and turned it into the means of our salvation. So that, ...everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” ~John 3:15. Just like the Jews may have been revolted by the idea of a serpent as salvation, so too a crucified Messiah hanging on a cross/tree. Come to think of it, the cross is repulsive to most that do not understand its significance, but to those that are being saved it is the power of God.

"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree." ~Galatians 3:13

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:18-24

"So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me."  ~John 8:28

In Numbers 20 we see the narrative of Moses speaking to and striking the rocks. The Israelite community had arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There was no water for the community, and the people gathered in antagonize Moses and Aaron. It was here in Tent of Meeting that the glory of the LORD appeared to them and they were told by the Lord to (v.8)“Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” As we know the story goes, Moses is petulant and in anger strikes the rock. This in turn prevents Him from entering the promise land. A message about punishment for disobedience. (v.12)..."the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

What we really see though that points us to Christ is what?

Jesus Christ is constantly referred to as a rock or the Rock throughout scripture. The Apostle Paul said the Rock from which Israel drank was most certainly Christ. The Rock represented Jesus and the eternal life through faith in the truth about Him which flows from Him like life-giving water or "Living Water" (John 4:10-14).

"For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert" ~1 Corinthians 10:1-5

Striking the Rock is a shadow of Christ suffering and afflict for the disobedience of us as sinners even as we are believers, just as Moses being a believer also disobeys and strikes the Rock. This is all over Isaiah 53. It is quixotically, the very Law that is given to Moses on Sinai that Jesus must abrogate or fulfill to gain atonement for our sins (Hebrews 12). If we actually drink the "living water" we are actually taking in or imbibing of the Gospel or the work Christ did on our behalf on the Cross. Through this we gain salvation. The imagery of speaking to the rock is that of a relationship where one can approach or request that which is live saving. We need only speak to Christ and ask Him to forgive us and believe what He has already said and done. We need not beat it out of Him...as this has already been done.

The very thing that should been another step in Moses journey then becomes the stumbling block to his access to the Promised Land. Just as Jesus was to the Jews as stated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:23, " but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles" and of course as Peter said in 1 Peter 2:8, " and "...a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

We have been given the proper path and method for gaining our salvation. Taking away from it or adding to it constitutes disobedience. Too much disobedience or habitual disobedience may very well be an indicator that you are not even in the Faith. It is God's way or the highway.

Lastly I will mention Numbers 11 (Deuteronomy 8) and the Manna from heaven. This does not need an elaborate explanation but it warrants mentioning here. Manna was suppose to have been the perfect food from Heaven. Food given to a million plus people wanting a desert wilderness bereft of sustenance. Just as the world is sinful and bereft of righteousness that will allow them to enter Heaven/Promised Land. God keeps these people alive that are sure to die in a rather unique and miraculous fashion. He sends a food called manna. Numbers 11:7-8 states that, "The people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil.”

The life-sustaining manna was a picture of Jesus. But as with everything else that foreshadows Jesus, it is no substitute for the real thing. So...enter Jesus and the 6th chapter of John's Gospel.

"So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ " Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. ~John 6:30-35

Jesus leaves no equivocation and makes it perfectly clear that he is the real bread from heaven, the real satisfaction for his people, He is the real sustenance...not just of their bodies, but of their souls. Furthermore we see Jesus follow up these statements with the following:

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.  Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. John 6:53-59

Other things that should be noted of Moses in comparison to Christ is the comparison / contrast of obedience. Moses was better than most but he was still a man and therefore a given to a fallen nature, we see that in his inability to enter the promised land because of disobedience. Another thing that should be noted is that more often than not Moses surrendered and submitted to God's will. We also see hints of Christ in the cities of refuge

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