Does life ever feel dry and barren? I have been meaning to write on the book of Numbers for a while as those following the Bible Reading Plan have been reading through it (and hopefully have just finished it!). It's not an easy read, there's a lot of historical names and places - it's called Numbers because there is a census at the beginning and another at the end, and in between - 40 years in the wilderness! But there are a lot of parallels to today - for the Christian life now can often feel like a wilderness, our true home is in heaven (as we've been seeing in our Sunday series in Philippians). Numbers teaches us about the fight in the wilderness, there are many trials and temptations - will we keep trusting God in the wilderness? The sad truth is that, just like Israel, there will be times that we fail, but the good news is that just as God provided a way of rescue for Israel, he's done it for us.
In Numbers 21, God's people are grumbling again, and God sends serpents among them, but when they cry out to the Lord he provides a way to be rescued. It's a strange way - Moses was to make a bronze serpent and to lift it up on a pole. Anyone that was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze serpent and they would live! How?! They simply took God at his word and trusted the means of rescue provided. As they looked at the bronze serpent they saw what they deserved, but experienced God's mercy. Jesus told Nicodemus that just as the bronze serpent was lifted up, so Jesus would be lifted up - not on a pole but on a cross. The way for us to be rescued is the same - take God at his word and believe in the means of rescue. As we look at Jesus lifted on the cross, we see what we deserve for the way we've treated God, and as we trust in the means of rescue we receive God's mercy.
Nothing can stop God's plan to bless his people (as Balak discovered - Numbers 22-24), but we need to take God at his word. The Numbers generation are a warning to us - most of them didn't believe God's word that he would give them the land, and so they failed to enter it, but God remained faithful to his promise, and the next generation entered the land under the leadership of Joshua and Caleb - the two men who trusted God.
If you got lost along the way, or haven't yet started the Bible Reading Plan then now's a good time to join in - today we started Deuteronomy - and it recaps a lot of what has gone on as Moses urges the next generation not to be like their parents but to be faithful to our faithful God.