As we have been studying the book of Hebrews on Sunday mornings, one image that has been repeatedly used in the book is that the church is living in a spiritual wilderness akin to that of the Old Testament Jews before they entered into the promised land. As I was thinking about the many ways in which we need to understand how we are walking through a wilderness, one passage came to mind.
In Numbers 21:4-9 God’s people, as they were wandering in the wilderness, began complaining against God. They didn’t like their current circumstances and so they lashed out in anger, rebellion, and complaints against God. More than not liking their circumstance, they didn’t trust in the sovereign plan of a gracious and merciful God. God’s response was not that he eased their difficult circumstance, but that he began to discipline them for their unbelief, misplaced hope, He brought the Israelites to a point in their lives when they had no choice but to either die or trust in God and His loving plan.
How often are we like the Israelites? We worship everything but God. We place our hope in our pleasure, our ease, our relaxation, our rest, or our vacation, rather than hoping in the only one who can truly bring about His promised satisfaction. We paint pictures of Egypt instead of trusting in God’s sanctifying plan for our lives. But through it all, what God desperately wants us to know, is that Egypt will never satisfy; and that God has everything that we need. He is the sovereign God who is directing our paths.
As the people recognized their sin, they looked to their intercessor Moses who pointed them to an image of the sacrifice of the future Messiah. But we look to Christ, the Messiah who is both the sacrifice for our sins, and He is our Great High Priest who is our intercessor before God. Along with Israel, we must repent of our sin of complaining, misplaced hope, and lack of faith.
Our hope is in a God who forgives our sins. If we look to our Messiah as the people of Israel looked to the bronze serpent, God extends forgiveness of our sins, and He gives us new life through Jesus Christ. This is our greatest hope. Not the difficulty of our circumstances, but a gracious and merciful God who will carry us through all of the storms of this life. As we have repented, let us continue along this path of repentance and trust our loving God with our lives.