December 29, 2013

Supernatural Anti-Toxin

Nothing can ruin a good day like an ill-timed poisoning. Poisonings can be of the body...or the mind. They can also be spiritual. There are a few mentions of poisonings in the Bible. One of the common themes of the poisonings is that they are partially symbolic. They are foreshadowing of events that will surround Jesus Christ and His Gospel. The poison is nearly always connected or associated with sin. The poisonings are no accident and part of an overarching plan of God to draw attention to God’s work and to give Him glory. The first I mention can be summed up in two words: Snake venom.

Numbers 21:6 ~ “Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died.”

This passage is found in the story of the Bronze serpent in the Israelites wilderness wanderings. The people had been bitten by poisonous snakes for the rebelliousness and are told that if they look upon the bronze serpent, their lives would be spared. What we should see immediately is that immediate response from God to their pleas when their hearts change...when they repent. People begin dying and the correct response is to turn to God. The people do and God responds immediately. The people’s belief and faith in what God has prescribed for their transgression is what saves them. In this way looking to the serpent on the stick is unmeritorious grace…just like trusting in the Gospel. This is the same as the image it portrays of the coming Jesus who will also be put on a post/cross and those that look upon Him also in faith will be saved. There is more here though.

The people turned to another believer for help when death knocked at their door. This other person (in fellowship) helps guide them to the saving action or their salvation. There is an image here of support for other suffering believers. A guide to the holy. There is also Moses reaction to their plea to him. Having had these people turn to him, he in turn goes to the source of all things for salvation in solemn prayer. Moses turned to God in prayer at the very request of the people. They actually requested that he perform intercessory prayer on their behalf. We see a punishment that is the just recompense for sin. We then see the proper response to that punishments which is a repentant heart and plea to God for forgiveness. God is quick to reciprocate in mercy and grace when a true heart change has been made in repentance. Again, God’s response is nearly immediate.

We often look at the Israelites in this story like reprobates and malcontents. We should look at them as if we are looking in a mirror at ourselves. We are all culpable of sin and capable of cursing God in what we perceive is suffering. Along the same lines of suffering we should note the element of pain mentioned here too. The passage says the bite was fiery…as poisonous and painful. If we imagine the bronze serpent as a type of Christ we then must see the bite as a typology of sin. Sin therefore is painful and usually meant to be painful so that it might be avoided. It is also because sin within itself has its own built-in punishment mechanism (Romans 1).

The second poisoning is Elisha’s "healing" a poisonous spring of water.

2 Kings 2:19-22 ~ “The people of the city said to Elisha, “Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.” “Bring me a new bowl,” he said, “and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, “This is what the Lord says: ‘I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.’” And the water has remained pure to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken.

Again we see a shadow of Christ in this healing of the poisonous waters. Again we see a people in distress and suffering and a trust in the God of a "good man". The healed waters are another symbol…the efficacy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The bowl of salt is the shadow or type of the Gospel being thrown into the pool of sinful humanity. The water is contaminated and clearly not usable in its current condition. It must have something placed within it to fix the situation and purify it. Not only is the water “dead”, the land around it has been made unproductive. Isn’t this the very nature of indwelling sin in a person? Not only does it make the person unusable by God for holy purposes until it is cleaned, it damages and taints all that it touches around it also. We pepper others with sinfulness and unrighteousness.

2 Kings 4:38-41 ~ Elisha returned to Gilgal and there was a famine in that region. While the company of the prophets was meeting with him, he said to his servant, “Put on the large pot and cook some stew for these prophets.” One of them went out into the fields to gather herbs and found a wild vine and picked as many of its gourds as his garment could hold. When he returned, he cut them up into the pot of stew, though no one knew what they were. The stew was poured out for the men, but as they began to eat it, they cried out, “Man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it. Elisha said, “Get some flour.” He put it into the pot and said, “Serve it to the people to eat.” And there was nothing harmful in the pot.

Along similar lines the third poisoning presents us with the sons of the prophets 
accidentally poisoning pottage by tossing poisonous gourds into the pot. We can see this as inadvertent sin or sin of omission. Sin taints regardless of motive or lack of motive. Elisha does the same as he did with the tainted water supply but instead of using a salt he uses flour as the physical medium to correct the bad contents. He made the substance fit for use again through the work of God. The same implications as the water purification apply here. Again we see a people come knowing Elisha is a man of  God and their faith in the ability of this God is enough that they expect He can actually do something. Again the act is intercessory. We see power and authority here. We also see a belief that the God of Elisha has true dominion over the elements in their lives.

In all these stories we see a foreshadowing of Christ as an antivenin or what amounts to anti-toxin. He is the cure to all ills and the fix for all maladies. Jesus is the countermeasure to sin. He is the cure for the evils of this world.

It is not ironic therefore that the devil is portrayed as a snake in Genesis I suppose. I also don’t suppose it was an accident that Paul said (Romans 3:13-14) that there is none righteous and that people’s throats are open graves. That their tongues practice deceit” and that “the poison of vipers is on their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” We even see James tell us that the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison (James 3:18). In every one of these cases it is what comes out of the person that is the poison or the thing that defiles them (Matthew 15:11). In the sinful man there is no redeeming value. That is why the Gospel is so important to fallen poisonous man. It is anti-venom or antidote to the poisonous bite of sin. A poison that is a result of the Fall in Genesis 3.

It is also why it is so important and so critical that we take in God’s word almost like a daily injection. We must internalize it and allow the Spirit of God to do His work in us. For Jesus to work in our lives we need to trust Him. We need to internalize His teaching through the very word of God from which we got these narratives today. To take in His Spirit is to accept the divine abolishing of death. By accepting him, the venom of death’s sting is neutralized.

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