When I was at Indiana Academy people used to complain about the food. Did they complain about the food when you went to the academy? Complain, complain. But they ate it. Complaining about the food is nothing new. Even in the Bible. People said, “We can't stand this detestable, horrible food. It's awful.” Who was it that hated it? The Israelites. What was it? Manna. Who was the Cook? Be careful when you complain about the cook. This was God. It wasn't Moses. Be careful when you criticize God. 14 hundred and 50 years later the descendents of those food haters did the same thing that their forefathers did. They rejected Jesus, the Bread of Life. Wasn't He the Manna. That's what Jesus is. They rejected Manna again. People hate manna.
There was another problem back in the Old Testament times. Not only were they detesting the food, but they were on a detour. You know they wanted to go straight to the promised land. It wasn't that far. You can walk 20 miles a day probably, or 15, and they could get there in just a few days, but it took 40 years. They were on this long detour. And they said, “Moses, this detour is a waste of our time. Especially when we’re almost home. We hate this detour.” And maybe you’re on a detour in your life right now. Maybe you're off the main road. Maybe you’ve lost your job, maybe your health has detoured you. Maybe it’s your teenager. Now your journey is rough. Things aren’t the way they ought to be.
Look at Numbers, chapter 14 in your Bible. Numbers 14 and verse one. These people were complaining. And they had some things to complain about. There was no problem with that. But look at Numbers 14, verse one. That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. I mean, they were even crying at night. They were just in tears. What did they want? Verse four. They said choose a leader so we can go back to Egypt. That's what they wanted was a leader to take them back to Egypt. And may I submit to you that you don't need a leader to go backwards, because you've already been there. You don't need a leader to regress into sin. You've been there already. You know the way back. You only need a leader if you want to go forward. Right? More than a million mad mutterers planned mutiny against Moses. And when the people of God were complaining about the menu, and they were complaining about the desert cafeteria, they were complaining about the detour, God gave them something to complain about. He sent some snakes. Deadly snakes.
Now I hate snakes. I'm not going to ask how many of you love snakes. I’m not going to go there. I don't like them. The only snake that’s a good snake, in my opinion; well anyway, yes that's right. And especially when they're poisonous snakes. Look at Numbers, chapter 21. The food was bad. The route was detestable. And now look at what happens. Numbers, chapter 21, and verse six. Then the Lord sent venomous snakes. I mean these weren't garter snakes. Venomous snakes among them. I never mind if a snake is a mile or two away. It never bothers me. But when they crawl right inside my tent, there’s agitation. I just don't like those varmints. Look at verse seven. Numbers 21. The people came to Moses and said, We’ve sinned, when we spoke against the Lord, and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.
So what did Moses do. He prayed for the people. Now God is not in the snake removal business. Did God take the snakes away? No, He didn't. There’s no record of that. The snakes stayed. We must personally suffer the consequences of our sins. You have to do that. But God always provides an answer to our sins, and you will only find an answer by looking to Jesus Christ. So get your eyes off the snakes, get your eyes off of your problems and look to your answer. Amen? Don't focus on your problems. Focus on Jesus Christ. When the people of God were complaining about the menu, they were complaining about the detour, God gave them something to complain about and the artillery that He used against the Egyptians, He used against them and because of their sins they were not allowed to take the beautiful scenic route to the promised land. They had to go on a circuitous journey. There was no freeway. No picnic spots along the way and no beautiful rest areas to pull off on. All along the way the land had always been infested with snakes and scorpions and fire ants and God had been sending His angels and clearing a path for His people to go on so that they could go through without these problems, but the Angels took a break. God said, “Just relax. The people don't deserve your protection,” and so the snakes slithered down to where the people were and bit them. God does not always continue to protect murmurers and complainers and criticizers. So the Angels took a break and these hungry varmints zealously slithered down and bit the people. And when the snakes are on the move, God’s people have a problem.
Are there snakes on the move in your life? God has to use affliction to change our outlook on life sometimes. And let's give the Israelites credit. They came to Moses, and they said, would you pray for us. They did come and they confessed their sin in verse seven. You can read it there. They asked for Moses to pray, and like Christ, Moses prayed for those who despitefully used him because they were complaining against him too. Look at verse eight. Numbers 21, verse eight. The Lord said to Moses, "Make a snake". You need one more snake. You don't have enough snakes. Make a snake and put it up on a pole and anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”
So God provided deliverance. Moses got some wood from somewhere, I don't know where you get wood in the desert, and he got some brass and somehow he melted that bronze. He poured a casting of a huge snake. Somehow Moses polished that snake. I don't know how he did all that, we’re not told, and he hung it up on what amounted to an old rugged cross and then whenever somebody was bitten by a snake, if they looked to the cross, they were saved. People debate about how we’re saved. You know, the answer is right here in this story. Are we saved by works? Or are we saved by faith? Well, they were saved by looking. Saved by looking. Think about this. As soon as they started looking, the pain started to ease up. If they continued looking the swelling went down. And they were eventually healed. They were not saved by snake bite kits. They were not saved by leather leggings on their legs. They were not saved by physicians. They were saved by their look. If they looked, they lived, if they looked at the representation of Jesus. Now, maybe you've never thought of Jesus as your snake. Jesus our Shepherd. There are so many similes for Jesus, but here Jesus is like a snake. We’re saved by our look, not by our works. If they looked, they lived. Ephesians, chapter 2, verse eight and verse nine says, "For it is by grace that you have been saved through faith. And this not of yourselves. It is a gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast." Day after day, the remedy for death was there. It was up on a high pole. I don’t now how high it was, and if they were bitten by a snake, they came to the pole, they looked at it, and they were saved.
Come forward 600 years from this time. You can read it in Second Kings, chapter 18, verses one to four. What ever happened to that snake on the pole? It is recorded 600 years later, you see what happened to it up here in Second Kings Chapter 18, the first four verses, Hezekiah broke it to pieces. He smashed it. It obviously was a casting. Why did he do that? It was a rough casting, because for all those years, for many years at least, God's people had been worshiping that snake. They had been burning incense to that snake. No wonder Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar. These people had made an idol out of that snake. Today where’s the snake? The American Medical Association uses twin snakes wrapped around a pole as their symbol and the blue star of life is on the side of our emergency vehicles, our ambulances. It's still there.
John, chapter 3, and verse 14 and 15. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, just so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. Who is going to lift up Jesus? Is it me? Is it you? I was thinking the other day how many preachers we have in the McDonald Road Church. How many we have. Well, there's three of us. Pastor Cook, pastor Carlson and myself. And then we have all these retired preachers here. We must have 20 or 30 of those, and then we have preachers that have been preaching. There were some preaching last night. We have all kinds. We’ve got kids that are holding meetings here. We’ve got all kinds of preachers that are out doing the work of the Lord. They’re selling literature. They're uplifting Jesus. It's each of us that must do that. That brazen serpent could not cure if it was not looked upon and it could not be looked upon if it was not lifted up. So our job is to uplift Jesus. That's the job description of our life as Christians, and Jesus cannot save you unless you look upon Him. So keep your eyes on Jesus. Look at Him. Behold Him.
There was a Christian artist. Well he wasn't a Christian. There was an artist that painted a picture of Jesus, and he was able to paint it in such a way that somehow the eyes ended up so they just almost pierced right through at you when they looked at you. He was hoping to make some money and the eyes were so piercing that he had to cover the picture except when people came into the store because they were affecting him. A preacher came in one day and he described the problem, the preacher said, “Take the veil off and let the eyes do their work.” Eventually the artist looked at that picture enough to where he knelt before it and gave his heart to Jesus Christ. He became a Christian.
Behold Jesus. There’s something wonderful about Jesus. He says in John 12, verse 32, "And I, if I be lifted up, will draw." Who? "Will draw all men unto Me," What a power Jesus has. What a power.
We've been planting garden seeds. How many of you have a garden? You been planting seeds in the last few weeks? Look at all those hands. That's great. I have too. Have you ever considered the job of a watermelon seed, that black seed. You nestle it down into the warm, soft soil. You put it there and it's job description, it is supposed to produce an object that is 200,000 times heavier than itself. Up there on top of the soil, that it will never see the object that it's producing and it’s supposed to draw from the ground through itself all the material that it will need to do this. And it is to mold from this dirty dirt, this beautiful object up here on top of the earth, an object with a red heart, surrounded with a white protective rind, covered with a beautiful green canvas with artistic designs in it, and all spread out through that thing, thickly inlaid in that red part, are other seeds, just like itself. Hundreds of additional black seeds, each one of whom in turn is capable of reproducing an object 200,000 times heavier than itself. That poor watermelon seed. I'm glad it doesn’t think about it’s job description. It can do it through the power of Jesus Christ. The drawing power of that seed is like the drawing power of Jesus. Just think what power Jesus has to draw us to Himself. If we do not resist, I'm convinced we're going to be transformed and become like Jesus. If we behold Jesus. John one, verse 29. Behold the Lamb, John the Baptist said, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. What is our job description? To behold the Lamb.
In my home in Hartford City, Indiana, one day we went up to the town square. It's a courthouse in the middle with a square of stores around it. Old-fashioned. And they had stretched a rope or cable between the courthouse, and one of our high, two or three, I think it was a three-story building that we had in town. And here was this cable stretched across there and they were going to have a tight rope walker and I remember we came. We looked way up there and it was high. And here came this person out and the whole town was looking up at that tight rope walker. You couldn't get me out on that thing for all the tea in China. I would never do that. I'm afraid of heights. I was kneeling by this step this morning thinking, “I hope I don't fall off during the prayer.” If I were a tight rope walker, I would imagine that my job description would be to fix my eyes on that cable, wouldn't you. I wouldn't be looking at the traffic or anything else until I got all the way across and into that courthouse safely. The successful Christian. You've got to fix your eyes on Jesus Christ. Fix your eyes on Jesus.
Back in 1955, Fred and Dick and David and myself went for a walk on the Pennsylvania Railroad, just west of Hartford City, and somebody said let's see how far we can walk and balance ourself on the rail. Have you ever done that? And after we fell off a few times and got used to it then we started keeping track. And I was able to walk 3 miles without falling off or stepping off of the rail. And as I look back at that moment, I think, “I don't remember one thing that I saw other than the rail that whole time.” Just staring at that rail. Didn't see anything. Didn't see the farms I was walking by.
To be successful you've got to have a goal, and you’ve got to fix your eyes on Jesus Christ, as a Christian. Isaiah chapter 45, verse 22. The King James says, "Look unto me and be ye saved." Look unto me. If we look and we keep looking, we will stay saved. Keep looking at Jesus. Look at Him every day. Look at Him as often as you can.
They claim that our eyes blink, it takes about one 50th of a second for you to blink your eyes and the average person blinks about 25 times a minute. So if you drive from here to Washington, DC., you have your eyes shut for about 35 miles that way, just between all those blinks. Some Christians have their spiritual eyes shut a lot more than that. They go through their entire life without really looking at Jesus. We want to look at Jesus.
Be careful what you look at. Eve looked at the forbidden fruit and took a bite. Achan saw the plunder, he took it. David saw Bathsheba. Control what you look at. Usually it's not the big temptations that bother me. I'm not tempted to go out and murder somebody, but anger, that's a temptation. Adultery has never been a temptation for me, but those little flirtations. Being a drug pusher. But what about being a gossip pusher? Be careful. It's not the bears and wolves that bother me. It's the gnats and the flies and the mosquitoes. The chiggers. The little things. Keep looking to Jesus. Keep looking at Him.
Spurgeon tells a story of an artist that painted a picture of this brass pole with the snake on it. And in this artist's picture it shows all the people who had been bitten by snake's. If they would look, the terrible snake would drop off. And there was a mother in this picture and her little baby had been bitten by a poisonous snake. And the baby, you could see in the artist's picture, the blue indentations were the fangs had implanted this deadly venom and you could see the baby was dying and the poor mother, she couldn't push through the crowd. And so this brave little mother lifted her baby up high and pointed its head at the pole and the baby could look at the pole and live. And I may suggest to you that the job description of every parent today is to take their child and help their child see Jesus Christ. That's your job description, and you can't do that if you don't know where Jesus is yourself. You must look to Jesus. How do you do that? You must immerse yourself in the Bible. This is where Jesus is. He is the Word. He is the Bread of Life. He is the Manna. Don't criticize the food. Look at it. Eat it. Enjoy it. Look to Jesus.
How many of you would like to say, “You know I want to, I haven't been looking at Jesus enough. I want to spend a thoughtful hour every day beholding the life of Jesus Christ.” Hebrews chapter 12 in our scripture reading, that was so beautifully read this morning. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus. Let’s do that.
You know it’s salvation by looks. We're saved by our good looks, aren't we? I've said that once before many years ago. We’re saved by our good looks, our good, long, looks at Jesus. Isn't that how we’re saved.
How many of you will commit to looking more at Jesus than you have been? You’re going to, anybody want to do that? Raise your hand. You want to look at Jesus more than, you haven't been doing, maybe, enough.
Let's sing our closing hymn, number 321. My Jesus, I Love Thee.
Hymn of Praise: #21 Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise Scripture: Hebrews 12:1,2 Hymn of Response: #321 My Jesus, I Love Thee
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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 5/5/08