Today’s Old Testament reading from the book of Numbers is a familiar one and always reminds me about how much we are like the ancient Israelites:
From Mount Hor the children of Israel set out on the Red Sea road,
to bypass the land of Edom.
But with their patience worn out by the journey,
the people complained against God and Moses,
“Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert,
where there is no food or water?
We are disgusted with this wretched food!” (Num 21:4-5)
Have you ever reflected on their complaint to God? Whining like little kids in the car, “Are we there yet?” Realizing they have no clue even how close they are, they whine some more, finally punctuating their grumblings with, “The food stinks, too!” That’s the line that always gets me. I can just imagine the scene, “Manna and quail again???” God provided for all of their needs, not necessarily their wants, and it just wasn’t enough.
Aren’t we sometimes kind of the same? God meets our needs, and we overlook his generosity only to complain that it just isn’t enough? Why is it so easy for us to focus on what we don’t have rather than on what we do have? My guess is that it all goes back to the fall. Somehow, even though they had everything, Adam and Eve decided it wasn’t enough, and the rest, as they say, is history.
So how do we change our focus? The answer lies in what happens next.
After sending seraph serpents as a punishment, the Israelites repent and ask for God’s mercy. As a remedy,
Moses prayed for the people, and the LORD said to Moses,
“Make a seraph and mount it on a pole,
and whoever looks at it after being bitten will live.”
Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole,
and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent
looked at the bronze serpent, he lived. (Num 21:7-9)
We change our focus by looking up just like the Israelites did when they looked at the bronze serpent mounted on a pole. Only we look up to Jesus. He suffices.
When our eye turns inward, our vision gets all messed up, our perspective skews, and we lose sight of the goodness of God. You know how is with grumbling and grousing. There’s just no joy.
Just like the Israelites had to look up to the bronze serpent mounted on a pole in order to find healing, we must look up to Jesus raised on the cross to heal us. It is only by keeping our “eyes fixed on Jesus” (Heb 12:2) that we can be set free of our sinfulness and our selfishness.
So today, as you go through your day choose something to use as a visual reminder of Jesus. It could be something as obvious as a crucifix. But maybe you don’t run across those in your daily duty, then find something else. Perhaps it’s the clock on the wall, maybe your speedometer, or even every time you hear the phone ring – whatever it is, speak His name and call on His mercy. It will make all the difference.
We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world Anne