Thursday, March 18, 2021

March 18 - Numbers 21, Luke 8

Key verse: Numbers 21:9

Big idea: To move forward, we must look up.

In Numbers 21, the Israelites are once again being judged for their rebellion against God. He sends a plague of snakes on the nation, and when they cry out for mercy, Moses intercedes and God gives them a cure. If they looked up at a brass serpent that Moses made, they would be healed. Look - a word that implied looking up in faith - and live! Several commentators have pointed out the interesting inversion: normally contact with death made someone impure, but in the case of sacrifices the ashes or blood of a dead animal could remove someone's uncleanness. Here, a serpent removed the pain of a serpent. 

It might be an interesting story without long-term impact, except for something Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." What was the connection Jesus was making? It seems to me that when Jesus was lifted up on the cross, His death cured the power of death. "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him," 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us. Jesus was lifted up so that we could look at Him in faith and live. 

Discussion idea: What might God be teaching us by linking the shape of the problem and the cure?

Prayer focus: Lord, help me to keep my eyes on You, my healer, and especially the clearest expression of Your healing - the cross.

Key Verse: Luke 8:39

Big Idea: Sometimes following the Son of Man looks like ordinary life.

What does following Jesus look like? Does it look like a missionary, walking through the jungles of Africa, risking life and limb to take the gospel where it has never been heard? Does it look like a pastor, working day after day on preaching, counseling, and prayer? Does it look like someone who is very poor? Or someone who is very rich?

Any of these may be right, any of these may be wrong. God's calling on every life is different. Sometimes following the Son of Man does not involve getting on an airplane, but going into the kitchen to make breakfast for young children who are soaking up God's truths. For several missionary families I know, following Jesus meant both going to a foreign field and faithfully raising their children in the struggles and joys of everyday life. The truth is that God is not impressed by the things we are impressed by. You would have a hard time finding a more dramatic story than the man described at the end of Luke 8, who was possessed by 5000 demons and liberated by Jesus. In gratitude for what Jesus had done for him (like the woman in Luke 7, he loved much because he was loved much), the man wanted to go with Jesus to preach to the world.

But Jesus told him no.

Imagine for a minute, the desire to do something grand, but to have the Son of Man tell you that the greatest impact you can have will seem much more ordinary: "Go home and tell the people here what God has done for you." For all of us, even those who God does call to more dramatic forms of ministry, the beginning of our service is at home. We must help each other in our family, share the gospel with our friends, and worship together if we are ever going to lead others outside of our homes.

What does following Jesus look like? It looks like living for Him, right where He put you. Charles Spurgeon once said that if God had made you a cricket and told you to chirp, you could do no better than to obey His will.

Discussion Idea: Why do you think the man wanted to travel with Jesus? Why do you think Jesus told him to stay? Does God ever tell us not to do something good, so we can do what is best?

Prayer Focus: Pray for contentment with the opportunities and challenges God has given to you and for eyes to see His work in your life.

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