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The Truth Bites

Numbers 21:6-8
Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. …” So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.”

I wonder how long it took for these pilgrims to connect the dots between their sinfulness and the pestilence of vipers. How much time elapsed between the lines of the phrase, “many people of Israel died?” Unbelieving scholars try to ‘demythologize’ this account by pointing out that venomous snakes were rampant in these rocky regions, implying that the truer historical event has nothing to do with divine retribution for sin but only carelessness on the part of wilderness wanderers. In other words, according to them, what this commonwealth really needed from Moses all along wasn’t a tabernacle at their center and testimonial tassels on their clothing and civil laws safeguarding their lives, but more signposts along the path that read, “Beware of snakes!”

To the unbelieving world, sin isn’t really an existential crisis, neither for the present life nor for the afterlife. It’s not that big a deal—if it’s even a deal at all. And God, if there is a God, is love anyway, they say. He doesn’t bandy about punishing people for petty grievances. If two men want to get married, He’s good with that. If a husband divorces his wife and has a little fun on the side, it’s okay. The real crisis is elsewhere. Look at the temperature rising! Look at our carbon footprints! Look at the ongoing droughts! Look at the economic collapse! Look at the coalitions of enemy nations! Look at the bombing and raiding and rioting! Effectively, look at all the serpents! Find a way around them; find a way to avoid them; do everything you can to not get bit; but don’t you dare, even for a second, connect the serpents in the world to your own sin against Almighty God!

Let’s not waste precious time today trying to outmaneuver the consequences of our compromises, friend. Let’s just come clean right away! We may even save a few lives as a result.