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Chuck Smith :: Sermon Notes for Numbers 21:5-9

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"THE SERPENT OF BRASS."
Intro. The story. Verses 5-9.
I. THE PEOPLE WERE ONCE AGAIN MURMURING AGAINST GOD AND MOSES.
A. God is in control of the issues of our lives, thus, any murmuring over our circumstances is ultimately to murmur against God.
B. These people had developed the habit of murmuring and complaining.
1. It is a dangerous thing to develop a critical spirit.
2. You begin to look for something to criticize - everything. Nothing is done up to your standards.
3. You become an inveterate fault-finder.
4. If you have come here today to find fault with the service or the message, let me assure you that you will not be disappointed. You no doubt will find many things that will not please you.
C. The children of Israel had become chronic complainers.
D. What were their complaints?
1. That God had brought them out of Egypt to die in the wilderness.
2. There was no bread or water and they loathed the manna.
E. God's response to them was to send fiery, deadly poisonous serpents into the camp and many of the people died as the result of the snakebites.
F. The people came to Moses and confessed their sin and requested prayer.
G. God commanded Moses to make a serpent of brass and put it on a pole in the middle of the camp and whenever a person was bitten by one of these deadly serpents, if they would look at the brass serpent they would not die.
II. WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE BRASS SERPENT?
A. In the scriptures, brass is used as a symbol of judgment.
B. The serpent was used as a symbol of sin.
C. The people had sinned against the Lord by their murmuring and false accusations against God.
1. They have now confessed their sin, and asked Moses to pray for their forgiveness.
2. God's answer is this brass serpent on the pole which was a symbol that their sin had been judged.
3. Through this brass serpent hanging on the pole, God has made provision for them so that they do not have to die as the result of the bite of the fiery serpents.
D. But the fact that the serpent was hanging on the pole did not automatically guarantee that they would not die. There was something they had to do.
1. They were required to look at the serpent in order to live.
2. They had to see that their sin had been judged.
3. Those who looked did not die, but those who did not look, died.
III. TURNING NOW TO THE NEW TESTAMENT WE SEE JESUS MAKING REFERENCE TO THIS INCIDENT IN THE WILDERNESS. JOHN 3.
A. Nicodemus a ruler of the Jews has come to Jesus by night to talk to Him about salvation.
1. Jesus immediately declared to him that to enter the kingdom of heaven he had to be born a second time.
2. Nicodemus did not understand what was meant to be born a second time.
3. Jesus explained that He was referring to a spiritual birth. He had had a natural birth, but it was necessary to have a spiritual birth to enter the kingdom of heaven. "That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
4. Nicodemus then asked how could this take place.
5. It is here that Jesus refers to our text, as He answers the question as to how a person is born again.
B. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." The Son of Man be lifted up.
1. The title Son of Man was one of the titles of the Messiah in prophecy. Jesus was the perfect God Man, He was both the Son of God, and the Son of Man.
a. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Son of God.
b. And the Word was made flesh and tabernacled among us. Son of Man. And we beheld His glory as of the only begotten of the Father.
2. The words lifted up are the words that Jesus used in another place to signify that He was to die on a cross. "And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me." This he said, signifying by what death He should die.
a. His death by crucifixion was also a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah.
b. Psalm 22 describes death by crucifixion.
3. As we see Jesus hanging on the cross, we see our sin being judged.
a. The prophet Isaiah said: "All we like sheep had gone astray, we had turned everyone of us to our own way, and God has laid on Him, the iniquities of us all."
b. Paul wrote, "And God has made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God through Him."
c. Peter wrote: "Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree."
d. He bore the judgment for our sin, dying for us.
4. Jesus went on to tell Nicodemus that God did not send Him into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved, and whoever believed in Him was not condemned.
5. So as in Moses' day, whoever was bitten by one of the fiery serpents was doomed to die unless they looked at the brass serpent hanging on the pole in the middle of the camp. So it is today, all of us have been bitten by the deadly serpent of sin and are thus doomed to die. But God has made provision whereby we do not have to die for our sin. Our sin was placed on Jesus as He hung on the cross, He died in our place, and if you look to Jesus, you will live and not die.
IV. A HYPOTHETICAL CASE. LET'S SAY THAT YOU ARE THERE IN THE WILDERNESS IN MOSES' DAY AND YOUR FRIEND, BOTH OF YOU, HAVE BEEN BITTEN BY THESE DEADLY VIPERS. AS YOU LIE THERE, WRITHING IN PAIN YOU TURN AND LOOK AT THE BRASS SERPENT ON THE POLE, AND YOU ARE COMPLETELY WHOLE. BUT YOUR FRIEND IS STILL IN CONVULSIONS ON THE GROUND.
A. You say to him, "Look at the brass serpent!" But he responds, "I do not understand how that can help me."
1. You say, "You do not have to understand it, just believe it."
2. He continues to writhe in agony as he says, "I can't believe anything, that I cannot understand, I will not look."
3. You respond, "Faith is more important than understanding."
4. He says, "I hear the serpent is made of brass. I do not like brass, I would rather it be silver. If it were silver, I might look."
5. Suddenly your friend goes into one more heavy seizure and dies.
6. You would think, "Poor fool, all around you people are looking and living, but you refused to look because you could not intellectualize it, and now you're dead."
7. And so with the cross of Jesus Christ today, where our sins were judged, if we will but just look in faith, we will be saved. But it is amazing how so many people who are dying, refuse to look.
a. What is even more amazing are the lame excuses that people will give for not believing.
b. "There were so many churches. I did not know what church to trust." God did not say to trust in the church to save you, but to trust in Jesus.
c. You say, "There are too many hypocrites in the church, and I hate hypocrites and do not want to be around them." I can assure you that there are no hypocrites in heaven, however, the place you are going, if you refuse to look to Jesus, is filled with hypocrites."
d. You say, "But I just can't understand how believing in Jesus can bring me forgiveness of my sin." God will say I did not ask you to understand it, just to believe it.
e. Bottom line is that believing is a matter of choice; you choose to believe or you choose not to believe. Your choice is based on your attitude toward sin. If you love the pleasures of sin and do not want to give them up, you will choose not to believe. But if you have begun to see the destruction that sin has brought into your life, and how horrible it is to die in sin, then you will choose to believe.
8. The Bible tells us:
1CO 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God.
9. The fact remains that you are dying as a result of sin, God has provided the means whereby you need not die, it is up to you now to choose whether to live or die.
10. It is an individual choice, someone else cannot look for you; you must look for yourself.
11. Jesus said:
JOH 5:24 I speak the truth to you. He that hears My word, and believes on Him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but has passed from death unto life.
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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