Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Is the Bible Relevant Today?



Journey through the Wilderness

When we read in the Book of Numbers about the journey through the wilderness that took forty years for Moses to reach the Promised Land, we marvel at the length of the journey.  What a long and arduous journey it was. There was terrible sadness and death that marked its path.  But is our own Christian journey to the promise of Jesus not equally arduous and marked by sadness and death along the way?  Like the Hebrews that Moses took out of Egypt from their enslavement, we are also in the wilderness looking to escape our own slavery; slavery to our own predicament of sin. 

The Bible is a didactic book in the sense that it teaches lessons; not only lessons about life and foundations of a universal moral ethos but it also helps us to understand the meaning of prophecy and salvation; the message of the Cross.

The narrative of the journey through the wilderness which is given in the Book of Numbers is also a symbol of our own journey through life.  It is a foreshadowing of our own struggle with understanding our own plight, similar to that of the Hebrews in the wilderness, as they confronted their own sin.  In numbers 21:5 we read…


And the people spake against God and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?  for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.”         

Were these complainers so concerned with their own worldly wants that they failed to recognize and appreciate the fundamental gifts which came to them from God; and more, from God’s promise to them? Did God not take care of them even that they had food and that Your clothing grew not old upon you, neither did your foot swell, these forty years?

We can look back at them and say they were ungrateful for the blessings which they had received because they were consumed by their own worldly desires of the flesh. They had lost site of the Promised Land to where God was leading them.  They grew impatient with God’s timing. But what part of the long journey was God’s timing and what part did they add to God’s timing by their own disbelief or lack of faith?  They looked instead to the political government of Egypt for their life needs and salvation instead of toward God.  Do some of us follow that same spiritual path; leaning on government instead of God?  Is there a lesson here for us today?

When these irate rebels unleashed their hostile verbiage on Moses they elicited the judgment of God, because God and not Egypt was their salvation, and God sent His judgment upon them. He sent fiery serpents among the people and many were bitten and many died.  Those that put their faith in Egypt’s government rather than God did not see the Promised Land. 

God’s judgment denied many of them entrance into the Promised Land, for their misplaced faith.  The fiery serpents are a symbol of God’s judgment.  But as so often the case in the scriptures, symbols can have more than one meaning.  When the people came to Moses and asked him to petition God on their behalf for forgiveness; Moses did.

(8) “And the Lord said unto Moses, make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole; and it shall come to pass, that everyone who is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. (9) And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent bit any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” 

Now the fiery serpent which God sent among the people is the symbol of God’s judgment but the serpent of brass made by Moses is the symbol of God’s redemption and God’s mercy. But the serpents are again symbols.  We can recall back to the Garden of Eden to the Serpent that initiated the sin of Adam and Eve and brought sin into the world.  Those who succumbed to the sting of the serpent and died did so because of their own sin against God, symbolized by the fiery serpent.  But when we inquire as to the symbolic meaning of the brass serpent upon the pole we see that it is a symbolic reference to the Cross; the death and resurrection of Jesus.   It is pointing to the sacrifice of the Son upon the cross; His death and resurrection and our salvation. 

Also, when Moses led the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt they were not all of equal gratitude.  We read in Exodus 32 that when Moses was delayed coming down from the mountain that Aaron was influenced by the crowd and had made a golden calf idol and he built an alter to it, while Moses was yet gone.  And Aaron then built an altar to the calf, and they made burnt offerings and worshipped it.  There is an interesting parallel here to Rehoboam who departed from God’s guidance and pursued the advice and political direction of the young men instead.  Rehoboam and Jeroboam took God out of the political system and society and God Brought judgment on Israel.

We know that God had judged the Hebrews in the wilderness.  God told Moses that these are a “stiff necked” people and He would bring His judgment upon them; but Moses pleaded for their forgiveness.  Now there is even a greater message here.  Moses, time and again interceded as an advocate on their behalf.   Moses wanted them to reach the Promised Land.  God wanted them to reach the Promised Land also but God wanted to chasten them. God did not allow them to go straight to the Promised Land but caused them to travel a circuitous path for 40 years until they were ready to enter the new kingdom which God had promised them; a kingdom which would flourish 1000 years before the birth of Jesus, under David but found decline beginning under Solomon.  

When we examine our own life, are we are so different from them? Are we sometimes stiff necked and in need of chastening? Are we wandering through this modern wilderness in hopes of reaching our Promised Land; the promise of Jesus?  Is our social and political system becoming more like that under Rehoboam and Jeroboam?

How many of us who have our essential needs met still complain, and want more and put our faith more and more in government instead of God?  How many of us who have abundance and yet still complain; we also want more?  Should we not be grateful for what we have; how much or how little that is? 

How many of us forget the blessings that God has bestowed upon us and yet we seek more worldly pleasures, like Solomon often satisfying our sensual desires and even eliciting new sensual desires from recreational sex to senseless, mindless video games and even more corruption? 

God is good to grant us prosperity.  But do we see that prosperity as a gift from God, or do we take pride in our achievement as though it were somehow the product of our own ingenuity?  We are not so different from the Hebrews in the wilderness; and like them we need a savior redeemer. Those Hebrews in the wilderness were told by God, through Moses, to look to the serpent on the pole to be saved from the sting of the fiery serpents. The serpent on the pole is the foreshadowing of the Cross of Jesus, our savior redeemer. For us, the fiery serpent is the sting of Satan; it is the temptation to sin and the commission of sin.  Like the Hebrews in the wilderness, we too need to look on the Cross.

The two serpents, the one on the pole and the one on the soil of earth, may seem diametrically opposed but they are not; both reveal the nature and the source of sin in man. The wages of sin is death, so those who looked at Egyptian government as their salvation met with death from the serpents. But the serpent on the pole represents the death caused by the fiery serpent that was meant for us but taken on by our savior and redeemer, Jesus Christ, who took those sins on Himself and who took our death for us with our sins on Him. 

Most Christians today acknowledge the moral decay of American society.  But most Christians do not understand the connection between moral decay and political leadership and political choices.  Rehoboam executed his political choices, which reflected the social behavior of his time; political behavior that was displeasing to God. Jeroboam continued the same rejection of God and pursued the social objectives that he believed would sustain his own authority and his own rule.  The people moved away from God and God judged Israel. 

How many Christians today are willing to admit that God has been taken out of the schools, out of social and political institutions and out of more and more families and homes?  Yes, there are many, but there are many more who either knowingly or unknowingly support the politicians and the political choices that remove God from the social fabric of American society.  How many Christians separate political and social behavior from personal behavior?  Is that logically possible?  Is not the social behavior the aggregate of collective personal behavior?  Is this different somehow from the society of the Hebrews in the wilderness or the declining kingdom of David and Solomon? 

Has God not given us a preview of what we are to expect from our behavior?  Can we really separate ourselves from the problem of the decaying moral ethos in American society?  Can we say that because we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and savior-redeemer that we are somehow excused from an obligation to manifest our faith and commitment in our total life experience; including our social and political life? 

It was not only Rehoboam that chose the wrong socio-political course; it was also the youth in his culture, who he responded to.  Who is blazing the path of moral decline to day; is it not our youth?  Do we separate our Christian walk from the drug addiction, the alcoholism, the vice and sex addiction and violence that has been spreading like a cancer among our youth in our society today?  How can God excuse us for allowing that? 

Some Christians proclaim that their responsibility limited only to spread the Gospel and pray and dedicate themselves to personal salvation.  Some do not acknowledge any responsibility on their own part that God is being systematically removed from our social, political, and educational and yes, even our religious institutions.  Who is responsible for it?  Some biblical scholars say that Rehoboam brought about the decay of the Kingdom of David and Solomon. 

But that is not true.  God brought judgment on the people. If God brought judgment only on Rehoboam and Jeroboam and not the people then, the kingdom of David and Solomon would have continued to be blessed.  If it is true that Christians have no responsibility to sustain and reinforce the Christian heritage and moral ethos in our social and political institutions, then whose responsibility is it?  What God do we worship? When God is being systematically replaced by the state, Christian opposition has been ineffective; Why?

The kingdom of David and Solomon was the reward that God gave to His people of Israel under David’s leadership because David led the people in the direction of the Lord.  David’s unshakable faith had been demonstrated when he knew that God would defeat Goliath. Like Israel, America was also founded under the direction of the Lord by God fearing men who embraced the power and the righteousness of the Lord God Almighty over the power of the state. In many ways America is like the kingdom of David and Solomon. 

God has given His people a blue print and a warning here.  He has showed us what can happen to any nation great or small that rejects Him and removes Him from the political leadership and the world view.   The Hebrews in the wilderness represent a small kingdom.  The kingdom of David and Solomon represents a great kingdom.  God judged both and He will judge America. 

Some Christians say that there is no hope; America is too steep in its decline to be saved.  Is it really possible that God has not the power to restore America?  What is needed for God to restore America is for His people to have the courage, the will and tenacity to restore His presence in our society and our political system.  The rampant moral decline is not due to the absence of God it is due to the lack of faith and courage of His people to stand up and be counted and to actively restore His presence.  Why has that not happened?

The answers are given to us in the Holy Scriptures.  The trek through the wilderness tells us that we need to look on the Cross, meaning we need to accept Jesus.  The narrative of David and Goliath tells us that we need a savior redeemer because without God we are doomed.  The experience of the kingdom of David and Solomon tells us that we cannot separate ourselves from the political process and allow God to be removed as its foundation. 

We are in the wilderness today, and when we look on the Cross today we must accept the manifest responsibility that goes with our faith and commitment. But it is critical that we know how and for what reason we manifest our commitment.  In Mathew 7: 22 – 23, we read “Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in in thy name...And I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”   There are Christian leaders today who are corrupted by influences of the progressivism politics and secular social forces.  They are redefining Christ and leading the flock along the wrong path.  Christ does not need to be redefined as a social reformer whose purpose was to liberate the poor from the shackles of poverty.  Christ came to liberate us from the shackles of sin; not the shackles of poverty.  Our poverty is impoverished faith, not impoverished finances.

Some final questions: is our salvation really a separate issue from our participation in keeping our nation; our society and politics acceptable in the sight of God? Does our salvation rest solely on our personal prayer and speech or do we need to actively keep God before us in our institutions; before our family and before our country? If we do or aid social and political acts that are repugnant to God, will He say depart from me ye workers of iniquity?  These are not rhetorical questions. They are serious questions of conscience.  Our journey through the wilderness may leave many of us behind along the way because those left behind did not defend our God. 


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