Nicodemus said to him, “How can this be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” – John 3:9-15
During the long ordeal in the desert wilderness, the newly freed Hebrew slaves found much to complain about, and the scriptures are filled with accounts of their “murmurings.” Instead of trusting the God who delivered them from the strong and mighty hand of Pharaoh, they remembered fondly their days in captivity and complained continually against their liberator.
Why did God rescue the Israelites from slavery if they were happy in Egypt? Perhaps it is not that they were happy so much as it is that they were comfortable. No doubt it was a hard life, but it was predictable – there was food; they were protected by their captors; and while there was heartache and toil, the Hebrew people had learned to accommodate their station in life. All was well enough in their eyes, but all was not well with God. God did not create his people to be slaves. He did not bring forth a mighty nation from childless Abraham and Sarah just so they could be comfortable living as strangers in a foreign land. God’s plan was greater than their plan.
As God brought deliverance, the Israelites experienced many and various trials, one of which was a series of attacks by poisonous serpents. Moses interceded for his dying people, and God instructed him to put a fiery serpent on his staff and lift it high, that all who were dying could look to it and find healing.
Jesus told Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews, that just as God had a greater plan for the Hebrew people than to be enslaved in Egypt, so too God has a greater plan for his people than to be enslaved in sin. And just as God had provided a salve to bring healing in the wilderness of Sinaii, so too God has provided salvation to bring healing to a dying world. And just as the Hebrews were healed as they looked at the serpent which had been “lifted up,” so too healing, wholeness, even eternal life are offered to those who turn to the Christ as he is “lifted up.” Lifted up on the cross of Calvary, lifted up in ascent to heaven, lifted up as lord of life, Christ offers salvation to all who turn and trust.
Good Father, help me to trust you, to turn my eyes and my life to Jesus, and to follow where he leads. Amen.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:8-9
a Bible study devotional blog by Gorman Houston