How many of you have been on a long road trip with your family or with your children? Did it go well, nobody fought, nobody complained? If you were the parents, you thought everything was great?
The biggest road trip that I was a part of as a child was in the summer of 1965. My mom drove across country with 6 kids, aged 11 to 2 and her mother-in-law. Trust me; the mother-in-law was not a problem. Dad flew out later to join Mom and us kids for the trip home. I don’t remember the 6 of us fighting much but we had to be in the car a certain way or it didn’t work. That must mean there was fighting and I am sure there was complaining as well. I can’t imagine that 6 kids who are cooped up in a car all day were the most well behaved children you could ever think of. As I think back about the trip, my mother had to have been a saint to be able to pull it off. There is something about long trips that tend to make people cranky among other things.
So we come to the scripture from Numbers that tells about the Israelites following Moses to the Promised Land. Now we need to remember that this wasn’t your ordinary road trip. They left slavery in Egypt to go to the Promised Land. The trip was supposed to take 40 days but all told it took 40 years. I don’t know how far they were into the trip when this scripture piece took place. But no matter when it was, it is a long time to be travelling with a lot of people through country that was not the most pleasant. They had to take detours to stay away from those that were looking for them. They were tired and they were hungry and thirsty. So of course, they complained. The scriptures say; “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Of course God heard them and became angry. So he sent poisonous serpents among the people and they did what snakes do and bit the people, causing many of them to die. The people realized then that complaining was not a good thing to do so they went to Moses and said they had sinned and would he please pray to God in their behalf. So Moses did what he was asked and the Lord answered his prayers by telling Moses to make a poisonous serpent and set it on a pole and the people who are bitten shall look at it and live.
It is how a parent would act I think. There are times when a child complains which angers the parent but the parent loves the child so the parent forgives the child. God forgave the Israelites and created a way for them to continue to live with the poisonous serpents.
This continues in the scripture from John but with a different twist. The scripture says that just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness so must the Son of man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. The serpent was lifted to let the people who were bit by the snake live and the Son of Man is lifted up so that his believers can have eternal life. However, for us to have eternal life, Jesus, the son of God, must first die and then be lifted up into heaven.
Again God as the parent is forgiving his children. Only this time, He makes the ultimate sacrifice in order that we, as his children, may live forever. Jesus was born into the world in order for the world to be saved through him. As long as we believe in Jesus, we are saved and we have eternal life.
The scripture goes on to say that light has come into the world; Jesus was born, dies, and then is raised to give us the light. If we believe, then we live in the world of light, if we don’t believe then we live in a world of darkness. As long as we believe and we do what is right in the eyes of God, we have light. If we have light, then our good deeds can be seen. It is like a circle, if we believe and do good deeds, then our world is full of light, and we have eternal life. If we don’t believe, then our world is dark, our deeds are not seen and most likely shouldn’t be seen, and we won’t have eternal life.
I think the part of this message that isn’t said; is that we can mess up, we can get lost on our way, and we can lose our light and be in darkness. But is that how it could stay? No, for our God is a forgiving God. If we mess up, we just need to ask for His forgiveness and our lives are back on track. It is a win, win as long as we recognize that we have stumbled and need help.
It is said that John 3:16 is the most well-known verse in the Bible. That makes sense to me. For no matter where you are in life’s journey, if you remember that verse then you are good.
“For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.” There is no better way to say it.