“But we had hamburgers for lunch! Can’t we have something else? I don’t want to eat hamburgers again for supper.” I whined and whined—standing in the threshold between the kitchen and the dining room as my grandmother glared over the top of the frying pan.
That was the last straw for Grandma and Mom. They were both on the verge of a supernova. I had been whining the entire trip from my Grandma Vander Lugt’s house to my Grandma Van Hill’s house. It appeared to me that God had been manipulating every passing event in order to make my life miserable.
“This drive is too long. I’m hungry. I’m thirsty. Southwest Minnesota and Northwest Iowa is SO boring. Hey look Chad another cornfield. Hey Erin, look another white church. Chad, stop crossing my line! That’s your side and this is my side. Mom, Chad’s crossing my line. Erin, your breath smells…did you even brush your teeth this morning. Get back over to the hump. This seat belt is uncomfortable. Why do they have to make these seat belts so uncomfortable? Why did God make me leave my wonderful home in Sioux City, Iowa to die in the wilderness of Leota and Inwood? There is no food! There is no pop! And I detest this miserable food!”
Another example of first world problems, right? So often, we complain about our WAY, our WATER and our BREAD! In his standup, Louis CK comments on this phenomenon. He says, and I’m editing it for the protection of our children:
“We have first world problems in America. That’s what we have. First world problems. You know what that is? That’s where your life is amazing, so you just make up stuff to be upset about. People in other countries have real problems. Like ‘Oh no, they’re cutting all our heads off, today!’ Things like that. Here, we make things up to be upset about. Like ‘How come I have to choose a language on the ATM. I shouldn’t have to do that. I’m American!’”
As followers of the Way, the Truth, the Life, we frequently complain about the WAY God chose for us:
“It’s too far. It takes too long to get there. The road is too narrow and bumpy. The valleys are too low. The scenery is too mundane. My brother keeps crossing the line. My sister’s breath smells. And this dang seat belt is uncomfortable.”
As followers of the Bread of Life and the Living Water, we frequently complain about the food and drink God provides for us:
“I’m hungry. I’m thirsty. This broccoli tastes like a weed. This fish is fishy. Hotdogs are made out of lips. I detest this miserable food! But we had hamburgers for lunch!”
When Israel traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea in order to go around Edom—for their own protection mind you—the people grew impatient. They complained, saying, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” (Numbers 21:4-5).
I guess God didn’t like that too much, so he sent some venomous snakes to infiltrate His people and bite them. Many Israelites died. After confessing their sins—again—God had Moses make a bronze snake, put it on a pole, and had everyone who was bitten by a snake look upon the bronze snake on the pole and they would live.
It seems odd to me that God would have the people look upon a bronze image of the very thing that bit them in order to receive salvation.
1400 years later, in His famous conversation with Nicodemus (you know…the one people flash the reference to during baseball games), Jesus references this peculiar event saying, “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).
Since the dawn of time, the serpent has represented sin…the evil one (Revelation 12:9). The serpent is crafty (Genesis 3:1). The serpent deceives (Genesis 3:13). Yet we are also promised from the very beginning that the Messiah, the Deliver, the Redeemer would come and crush the Serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15). So why this comparison? Why the bronze serpent? Why would looking upon the very thing that caused our demise save us from that demise?
Moses made the bronze serpent in the likeness of the very thing that was killing the Israelites. Looking upon that likeness saved them from certain death. Looking upon God Almighty—sent to us in the likeness of sinful flesh—lifted up upon the cross, saves us from certain death. We may hate the purpose—the WAY—God has chosen for us. We recurrently turn away and complain about the BREAD and WATER God provides for us. We may repeatedly yell out, “But we had hamburgers for lunch!” This selfish disregard for God’s purpose and providence; this constant whining, complaining, and self-serving ignorance will lead to vicious attacks from the Venomous Serpent. Thankfully, God sent His Son in the likeness of sin to crush the Serpent’s head, raised His Son up on a pole, and told us that all we have to do is look upon Him, believe in Him, and we will certainly live.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”