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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Why I See Christmas in Numbers 21 (Part 1)

During their wilderness travels, Israel became discouraged and they began to complain about God and Moses. They said, "Why have you brought us from Egypt to die in this wilderness? There is no bread. There is no water. And our soul loathes this light bread (speaking of the manna God provided for them each day)."

And this story makes me think of Christmas. "What?" You say. "How can this story remind you of Christmas? There is no manger. There is no star. There is no Savior of the world." Oh contraire. It has everything to do with the reason of Christmas and gives us a tremendous visual of our Savior. Will you allow me minutes of a few days before Christmas to share with you this version of the Christmas story?

The people are complaining. The economy is tough. They want steak and ale and all they have is water that comes from a rock when Moses talks to it and a food they don't recognize and call "what is it?" That's what the word manna means, "what is it?". They said their soul (mind, will, emotions—intellect) loathed the manna. So, let's talk about Manna for a few moments.

In Psalm 78, Asaph highlights the 40 year trek Israel took in the wilderness. He says, "He (God) split the rocks in the desert and gave them water as abundant as the seas." And, "He (God) rained down manna for them to eat and gave them the grain of heaven. Men ate the bread of angels." (Ps 78:15, 24-25). Psalm 105 states that there was none feeble among them (Israel). Moses, talking for the Lord, states, "In these forty years He has led you, your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell. He fed you on manna to teach you that man does not live by bread alone, but from every word that proceeds from God's mouth you may live (implied)." (Dt 8:3-4). And then Jesus, Himself, said to those who would hear, "I am the bread come down from Heaven." (Jn 6:41).

This is the bread—the light (something light in value or position) bread—their soul loathed was a picture of Jesus as provider and sustainer of life. But the story gets better, stay with me.

When they said, "Our soul loathes this light bread.", fiery snakes—which by the way are common in the wilderness—began to bite the complainers. The snakes were always there—but until the people complained, they didn't bite anyone. They were poisonous snakes whose venom was like fire.—but they didn't touch Israel until they spoke against God. Complaining opens a door for serpents to attack. Brings a new realization of that verse that says, "Life and death are in the power of the tongue," doesn't it? There are serpents in the world around us, but we are protected as long as we remain in agreement with God's word and way.

Tomorrow we will examine the Hebrew word for serpent to understand this story and the story of Christmas better. Hope to see you here.

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