As I prepared yesterday’s Sunday school lesson, I got stuck on a verse. It was not the focal verse. But I got stuck on it anyway.
The people spoke against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.” Numbers 21:5
Do you see the contradiction here? We have no food…well, really it’s that we loathe this miserable food.
We have no water…well, except for all the water that You have provided every step of the way, Lord.
Most of the complaints of the children of Israel are met with Moses crying out to the Lord, the Lord providing the need, and then some sort of reminder from the Lord that He really is in charge and that whining is not acceptable.
This time, though, God just skips all of that and sends snakes to torment and kill the people. Why? Because this time there was not a real need. This time they were just complaining about what God had already given them. They are saying that God’s provision and care for them are insufficient. How do I know this? Check out verse four.
Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey. Numbers 21:4
So, why did I get stuck here? Because I am guilty of the same type of complaining. I behave with the same level of impatience.
It does not matter that God has always provided. If the provision is not here right now, I get agitated.
It does not matter that I have plenty all around me. If I do not have exactly what I am craving right now, I get irritable.
It is so easy to judge the Israelites for their childish behavior until we look in the mirror and analyze our own actions. How are we any different?
I am truly thankful that God does not send poisonous snakes to remind me of my selfishness. I do not have to look at a bronze serpent to survive. But I do have to look at the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself made that comparison in John 3:14-15.
When I look to the cross, my perspective changes. I see a reminder of what my selfishness did. It crucified my Savior. His blood dripped for my bad attitude. My complaining. My accusations that what God has done is not enough.
This week Christians everywhere naturally look to the cross as we walk through Holy Week. But do we really see it? Does it truly affect our thoughts and behavior? Does it make a difference in our whining and complaining? In our attitudes? In our selfishness?
It is so easy in our culture to get bogged down with the pressure of making sure everyone has just the right Easter clothes. We need to find the right Easter baskets, make sure to squeeze in an egg hunt, and hustle to finish all of the cooking for that Easter meal. It is easy to forget to really look to the cross this week. We let the serpents continue to chip away at our attitudes, bringing death to our celebration while we refuse to look up and be healed.
Will you look to the cross with me this week? Really look? Somehow I think that, if we do, all of the other mess will fade away. I have been so distracted by that mess. I am ready for it to fade away. Will you join me?