From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against 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 detest this miserable food.” Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.
Sometimes we think of the Old Testament as something completely different from the New Testament. That is too simplistic and pessimistic a perspective.
One can think of the Old Testament as foreshadowing what will be happening in the New Testament. Or one can view the New Testament as the continuation of what God was doing in the Old Testament.
In this story, the people were asked to look up to the bronze serpent on a pole to obtain healing.
Pretty strange thing to look at?
And so what about us Christians who look up to a Cross!?
The Cross was the tool of torture and death in the Roman Empire. Yet, it is the symbol of our faith. It would be like turning an electric chair or lethal injection syringes into symbols of faith.
God uses the foolish to stump the wise. He uses the weak to humble the strong. And so God calls for faith and trust in what is unexpected. God’s love is present and most evident in the Cross. Sadly, we often refuse what God has offered because we don’t think we need it or it calls for too much humility from us – our pride and self-sufficiency gets in the way.
When it comes to trusting God there is no room for arrogance. Instead, we have to throw ourselves upon the mercy of God and live in humble gratitude in the buoyancy of His grace!
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.
The work of God continued through many generations through many people as described in the Old Testament. Nations would arise from Abraham but it took a long time!
God’s greatest work occurred through Jesus and the Cross and the Resurrection. And God would bring salvations to the nations through the church that would be born at Pentecost. That work goes on to this day and there are still parts of the world where peoples haven’t yet been reached.
Abraham probably wondered what he was getting into trekking away from his home to a land he didn’t know. The disciples would slowly catch onto what Jesus was asking them to do – that they would face literal Crosses too in some cases and in all cases give up their agenda to serve the Lord.
And so we follow, like Abraham, like the early disciples, even if we feel uncertain or face difficulty. However, it is worth it to have life in Christ! What the world can offer pales in comparison. And so we are blessed and let us be a blessing to others!
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.
Can we see Jesus in this famous Old Testament passage?
His life and ministry was difficult. The crowds pressed in on him. The opponents would hound him. The disciples were often clueless as to what was going on.
Yet, Jesus kept going on his mission that eventually led to the Cross.
Heard NT Wright on a podcast once say that we often have the Jesus as divine part of the stereo speaker system on too loud and the Jesus as human part too low. We see the miracles but we overlook the times he was weary and sought solitude.
One of the great mysteries of the Christian faith is that Jesus was truly God and truly human. As one who was truly human, he would need to receive strength from God the Father to fulfill his mission on earth. And thus, he took time to pray and wait upon God, the Father. And God would renew his strength – strength enough to endure the travails before the Cross and suffering of the Cross itself.
Let’s take Jesus example and wait on the Lord so our strength can be renewed to fulfill what God would have us do in our daily life!
The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.
The story of Jonah has many threads. However, perhaps the biggest point is the desire of God to restore. Jonah was rebellious and did not want to obey God’s calling on his life. Yet, God didn’t give up on him. The city of Nineveh was filled with much wickedness. Yet, God wanted to them to turn from their wickedness.
We see this same God at work through the life of Jesus. The journey to the Cross was part of this work.
Jesus proclaimed good news of restoration and reconciliation. The audience was mostly Jewish, but in the Gospels Gentiles were reached as well. In fact, some of the most beautiful responses of faith were by non-Jewish people.
God worked through Jonah to reach Nineveh in the Old Testament. Jesus invited the disciples to join him to reach Galilee at the beginning and eventually to reach the whole world as seen in the book of Acts and in the rest of the New Testament and into the centuries since.
And today, God is on the move to restore and reconcile. We need to change our minds and turn to God. And when we do, we too receive the call to follow Jesus and let people know about him through our words and deeds. Thank you Jesus!
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
It is too easy to think that the Old Testament is about works righteousness. Yes, there are the 10 Commandments and various other ethical instructions as well as ritual laws.
However, at the root, there is a relationship with God.
Obedience is not about merely external fulfillments but of internal transformation and that is what God wants. And because we do fail, we can come back to our loving and merciful God knowing we are forgiven. The work of Christ culminating at the Cross is about this. The work of the Spirit is about this. As much as the doctrine of the Trinity blows our mind, the Scriptures tell us that each person of the Trinity is making Jeremiah 31:31-34 into the reality of our lives!
In this thoughtful presentation, Dr. Yen dives into Genesis 1 and 2. This was recorded at the Wheaton Chinese Alliance Church on May 5, 2013 and is in Cantonese.
Ruth. Ever read it?
Four chapters. That’s all. But a great story of how God works in the lives of ordinary people.
Ruth 4 from Fuller Vocation & Formation on Vimeo.