Sunday, November 1, 2009

Lifted, Like A Snake In The Desert

Have you ever given it much though about the phrase, “Lift Christ up with Praise”? Quite often you will here a pastor use this phrase as he instructs you to give glory to God though His Son. But have you ever really consider what the phrase means to you and and the significance of it? Give me a moment of your time and allow me to introduce you to something very few Christians have actually ever considered when hearing this phrase, “Lift Christ up with Praise”.

Most people know the verse John 3:16 , many have even memorized it. For me, that was the first verse I ever memorized in Sunday School as a child growing up in Duluth Minn. If there is any verse that say's it all, it is John 3:16. God's gift to mankind was His only Son Jesus. With the death of His Son on the Cross, all we need to do is confess Him as our Lord and Savior and our sins have been paid for in full. Salvation in a nut shell. Praise God for simplicity! Now, as great as this verse is, what is truly interesting to me is the verses that precede John 3:16. I lose count of how many times I have read these verses, just to have my mind mentally skip over and almost ignore the meaning of them.

When you read John 3:14, it should take you back in time to Israel's past history. A time when Moses was leading the twelve tribes through the wilderness of Sin. A time when God was showing them His power and love firsthand. In the Old Testament, we read in Numbers 21:4-9 that the children of Israel had grown discouraged and spoke out against Moses and God. As a punishment, God sent down fiery serpents that would bite the Israelites and many would eventually die. Realizing their sin, they went to Moses confessing and asking him to pray to the Lord that He might take the serpents from their presence. Well God would not remove the cause of their plight, but He did instruct Moses to make a serpent and erect it on a pole. Mose told those who were bitten by the serpents to come to the pole and look up to the pole and put their gaze upon the image of their pain and they would live. At that time, to look upon such an image erected on a pole would be considered repulsive, and many would instinctively look away. However if they wanted to live, those who had been bitten needed to look upon the image of the serpent, or they would die.

What you ask, does all this have to do with Christ’s crucifixion? Well, the Jews looked at crucifixion as a sign of a curse, just as the Israelites looked upon the sign of the snake on the pole. At the time when Jesus walked with men, death by crucifixion was only used for the worst of criminals. Thus, to see Christ lifted up and crucified meant that He was considered cursed under Jewish tradition. After all, God instructed the Israelites in Deuteronomy 21:22-23 that;

"If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God. Deuteronomy 21:22-23
This is a verse Paul brought to mind when he wrote to the Galatians;

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree") Galatians 3:13

So, just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness to save his people from death, we too must look at the uplifted Son of Man to be saved.

Christ couldn’t just die. He had to die the death of a sinner, lowly and cursed. Lifted up on a pole, He was an image many found repulsive. He could have just come down and said, "Not today!" But he stayed. He died a death of pain and shame for sins he never committed. Sacrificed from the beginning of time, for sins He saw us commit, yet turned His eyes every time we did.

As we move forward into the holiday season, with all the hustle and bustle, as we attempt to get through the season with some semblance of sanity, I ask that you remember how the King of kings and Lord of lords was so humbly lifted on a pole for you. Will you take a moment and look up at the cross, or will you look away and continue in your sinful way? Take a moment and pray, take a moment and ask the One who stayed upon that cross for you, to take away your sin. His arms are outstretched and waiting for you, all it takes is for you to willingly look up and accept His Fathers gift to you.

I pray that those who have ears to hear will hear His voice and call upon the name of the lord Jesus Christ.

I would now like to take this time and thank all those who have answered my call to prayers for my wife. You all have been a true blessing to us both, and I pray the Lord will return to you tenfold, for the joy our hearts feel from the out pouring of your love and care. My wife has advanced in her recovery beyond all expectations. Thank you and may God bless you and yours.
Chuck Ness

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