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The image of death

Numbers 21:4-9

Pastor David Ernst

Fifth Sunday of Lent
Epiphany Lutheran Mission of La Caramuca  
Barinas, Venezuela

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Sun, Apr 2, 2017 

Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I want to talk about our reading from the Old Testament. There are some other biblical quotations relevant to this story. First, 1 Corinthians 10: 1-6.

"For I do not want you, brethren, to be ignorant that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all in Moses were baptized in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink. Because they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. But many of them were not grateful to God; Therefore they fell in the wilderness. But these things were a figure for us, that we should not covet evil things, as they coveted. "

Our reading in Numbers is from the chapter in the history of the people of Israel between their liberation from slavery in Egypt and their arrival in the Promised Land. Remember the events of Holy Week occurred during the Passover of the Jews, when they celebrated their deliverance from slavery. God sent Moses to Pharaoh, struck the Egyptians with 10 plagues, the last plague was the death of all the firstborn in Egypt. God commanded the Israelites through Moses to paint the doors of their houses with the blood of an unblemished lamb and the angel of death passed over their houses. Then the people Israel crossed the Red Sea to freedom. However, they still had to travel to the Promised Land.

They walked through a desert like the Medianos de Coro in Venezuela. There is not much food or drink in an arid zone, but God provided them. However, people were not grateful to God.

"And the people spoke against God, and Moses, saying, Why hast thou brought us up out of Egypt, that we should die in this wilderness? That there is neither bread nor water, and our souls are annoyed by this light bread. "

They were not content in their bondage, nor in their freedom. They had bread, but not the bread they preferred. Paul says about these people, so they fell in the desert and did not attain the Promised Land. All the people crossed the Red Sea, but not all arrived in the Promised Land for lack of faith. Our text for today is not the only case in which the people murmured against Moses and against God, but in this case here's what happened.

"And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people: and many people of Israel died. And the people came unto Moses, and said, We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee: pray to the Lord to take away these serpents from us. Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon the banner: and it shall be that whosoever shall be bitten, and look upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and set it upon the standard, and it was, that when a serpent bit any man, he looked upon the serpent of brass, and he lived.

Let's see, then, John 3: 14-15. "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 everlasting life. "

The whole Old Testament points to Christ. In this case, when the people are dying from the sting of snakes, Moses by God's command lifted up the image of death on a staff. And here on the staff of the cross is the image of the death we deserve. Christ suffered the punishment for our sins in our places. The crucifixion was a prolonged and painful death. The man hanging from the cross slowly weakened and could not hold up his chest to breathe. In addition Jesus suffered the lack of the presence of God. He felt abandoned by God, as each of us deserve.

Christ paid the price of our sins. Therefore, as faith in the image of death in the wilderness saved the Israelites, faith in the image of the death of Christ saves us from eternal death.

Also in our text we have the preview of the means of grace. For the Israelites their new free life began when they crossed the Red Sea. For us, the Red Sea is baptism. In baptism God has delivered us from the power of sin, the devil, and death. However, we still have our long journey to our Promised Land. Then we have the spiritual food and drink in the body and blood of Christ at the sacrament.

Many people have left the country, traveling day after by bus or boat, hoping for a better life. As Christians, we face our journey with a more sure hope. We have the guarantee of eternal life in Jesus Christ. That is why we have peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.

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