Sunday, March 26, 2006
I find the Numbers passage extremely hard to understand. Many explanations have been offered, but none of them have for me adequately justified this picture of God who sends snakes to bite people who grumble and complain, and then further gives them an opportunity to be healed, only if they do what He says – and look at the bronze snake.
This does not mean that, because we find this passage hard to comprehend, we have a sufficient reason to ignore it. The question that confronts me in this passage is this: What does God need to do in my life to get my attention? Please understand that I do not think that if I continuously fail to hear God calling my name that God would get so fed up, that God would send snakes to bite me and force me to look at the reality of God’s presence in my life. This question, a sobering one at that, the same one that confronted the Israelites of old, confronts us today. What does God have to do to get your attention, my attention, our attention?
Perhaps this is the first time that we think about this question totally unaware that God may have expressed an intention for a close relationship with us, but we simply failed to hear, or worse, passionately denied the possibility of God forming an intimate part of our existence. So, what has God done so far to get your attention?
1. God decided that we are worth it, before we could ever prove it.
“For God so loved the world…”. It doesn’t say “For God so loved the Christians…” or “For God so loved those who were obedient…” or “…those who give a lot towards ministry”. Put in your own words. If it did, we would be in serious trouble. Sadly, many Christian communities do add a footnote when proclaiming this word. “God is only interested in you if…”, “Only when you do x, will you witness God’s faithfulness to you.” You know what I mean and you can possibly site a few examples. If this were true, then the question that we are discussing would have to be rephrased to “What do you have to do to get God’s attention?”. This is not the Christian message. What is the Christian message? God has chosen that we are worth pursuing a relationship with. This word has been revealed through the incarnation and is the essence of the message proclaimed by Jesus and others. Does that get your attention, that God loves you –right where you are, who you are, even in the light of your history with God, others and yourself?
2. God acted on God’s love and has become our Saviour.
“…that He sent His only Son…”. Instead of sending snakes, He sent His Son. Very Good News indeed. Take note: “…not to condemn the world, but that the world, through Him might be saved”. We encounter Jesus daily, bumping into God who came to tell us that we are loved. The recurring response to God revealing Godself is often denial, rejection, sometimes even suggesting that what is revealed is blasphemy. The Pharisees and Sadducees were good people, but good people who responded to Jesus, suggesting that Jesus didn’t look like their picture of the Messiah. Those who screamed for the release of Barabbas were people like you and me, who would rather have the familiar than a person who constantly challenges perspectives. He still did not give up. Everyone contributed towards His death. Even those closest to Him did not stand up for His defence, but hid in the shadows. Testimony of His patience with us is in the empty tomb. Testimony of His faithfulness is in His appearance to the disciples, showing His hands, feet and side to Thomas. What must He do to get your attention?
3. God changes lives.
“…that they may not perish, but have eternal life.”. What is this changed life? It certainly is not a life without trouble. Neither is it a life of financial prosperity, offered to those who see themselves as ‘Friends of God’. Eternal life, a changed life, is a life that is lived with the knowledge and assurance that the creator of the universe is interested in you. Living with this assurance cannot leave a person being unchanged, unmoved, clueless. It is the knowledge that God is not interested in being my friend, my business-partner, my consultant, but that He is interested in being my Lord. His Lordship has all the other qualities as added benefits.
So, God has chosen to love, God has acted on that love and is presently working towards creating a full and meaningful life in each of us. Does God have your attention? Now, listen to what He has to say.