I love when the Lord is shouting a truth at me from His word, from several sources at the same time, by His Divine ordaining of reading the same description, the same use of scripture reference, from two different authors from different times, and different focus. But the truth is the same.
In the mornings, when I can steal longer than an hour for reflecting, praying, personal growth, and Bible study, I love to start with reading from ‘The Life and Work of Our Lord’ by Spurgeon. And right now, for personal growth, I’m also reading ‘Pursuit of God’ by AW Tozer. There is zero consistency to how many pages I read of each. And I’d begun reading the first about 3 years ago, and am halfway through, and I picked up the second a few months ago. But this morning, I am in two chapters that highlight the same Old Testament tale: the fiery serpents in the camp of the Israelites, found in Numbers 21:4-9.
What had happened? The Israelites were complaining…again. Hm, I think the Lord is speaking to me some more, because just yesterday evening the complaining of the Israelites about no food, just stinking manna, was part of the examples at a Bible study using a book called “Calm My Anxious Heart” by Linda Dillow. I have not read that book yet, but I will be picking it up to be a part of that monthly study.
So the lessons here for me are twofold. But the one I want to focus on actually happens second: the bronze serpent, the looking, the being healed. Spurgeon and Tozer both recognize the profound truth that Jesus expounded on when He said in John 3:13-16: “No one has ascended to heaven, but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Salvation comes through faith. And faith is simply looking.
“There is life in a look at Jesus; is not this simple enough?” Spurgeon writes. The mystery of knowing salvation, of being free from the price of sin and death, is bound up in a simple believing look. Tozer details the connection further: “Our plain man in reading this would make an important discovery. He would notice that ‘look’ and ‘believe’ were synonymous terms. ‘Looking’ on the Old Testament serpent is identical with ‘believing’ on the New Testament Christ. That is, the looking and the believing are the same thing. And he would understand that while Israel looked with their external eyes, believing is done with the heart. I think he would conclude that faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.”
The gaze of the soul – what do I spend my time gazing upon? What fills my eyes, my looking, and then sinks into my heart, my believing? Am I ‘looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith’ or are my eyes turned downward on my stinking same old manna? Which brings me to my second point.
If I am truly turning my eyes to behold the Son lifted up, then I should be living a life healed and cured from discontent and complaining. God does not change: He still hates the ungrateful, complaining attitude just as much now as He did then. He might not send real serpents into our homes to bite us and remind us that we need His miraculous healing, but He does allow things in our lives that cause us to look up. I have to ask myself, what am I complaining about? Or am I so consumed with looking at my Savior that no irritations of this life can get me down? Lord, search me and know me. Show me where I’ve taken my eyes of faith off of You and turned them to my fiery snakes, my troubles, my problems.
But back to my main point, I just want to close with another quote from Spurgeon: “We are told in the text that ‘if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived;’ that is to say, he was healed at once. He had not to wait five minutes, nor five seconds…If you have lived in the blackest sin that is possible up to this very moment, yet if you will now believe in Jesus Christ you shall be saved before the clock ticks another time. Sanctification needs a lifetime, but justification needs no more than a moment. Thou believes, thou livest. Thou dost trust to Christ, thy sins are gone, thou art a saved man the instant thou believes. ‘Oh,’ saith one, ‘that is a wonder.’ It is a wonder, and will remain a wonder to all eternity.”
Do you get it yet? Just look to Jesus. Keep looking. And if you ever waiver in your faith, look at Him again. I have to say just one more thing through Spurgeon’s words: “Very possibly after a man had been healed he might go back to his work, and be attacked by a second serpent, for there were broods of them about. What had he to do? Why, to look again, and if he was wounded a thousand times he must look a thousand times. You, dear child of God, if you have sin on your conscience, look to Jesus.”
Look to Jesus, turn to Him,
Let Him heal you of your sin,
Look again, and just believe
On Christ’s gift at Calvary –
Keep on looking all your life
Don’t ever try to pay the price
The Son of Man has set you free
There is nothing you can bring
To add to salvation given
So set your eyes on the Lamb who is risen
And never ever look away
From His unending, amazing Grace.
(poem by Melissa Roland)