March 11, 2018

Pastor Bernt P. Tweit



Gospel Lesson; John 3:14-21         

Epistle Lesson; Ephesians 2:4-10

Sermon Text; Numbers 21:4-9


Before we get into our text for today, I want to share with you the things that happened, leading up to the time of our text.  Remember the Children of Israel were going to be wandering through the wilderness for forty years, after they left Egypt, and before they came to The Promised Land of Canaan.  They were probably already 38, or 39 years into their wanderings, and they were close to getting to The Promised Land.  Here were some of the things that happened. 

-They came to a city called Kadesh Barnea. 

-There was a lack of water.  So, the Children of Israel complained against God.  “We don't have enough water.” 

Consider the circumstances.  There were about two million people wandering through the wilderness.  Imagine having a lack of water.  They went to Moses, and asked God would give them some more water. 

So, God told Moses to speak to a rock, and from that rock would flow forth water they could drink from. 

Well, instead of speaking to the rock, Moses and Aaron struck the rock.  Water did flow forth from that rock, but God told Moses, and Aaron, “Because you did not trust me, because you did not honor me, and struck the rock instead of speaking to it, you are not going to be the ones who lead my people into The Promised Land.  You are going to die before you get there.”

That is when they continued on in their journey.  They came to Edom.  I have a map here.  You can see Edom on the right side.


They asked the Edomites if they could pass through their land, on their way to The Promised Land.  The Edomites said, “No, you can't pass through our land”.

Now, remember who the Edomites were.  They were descendents of Esau.  The Israelites were descendents of Jacob.  Those were brothers, twin brothers, Jacob and Esau.  So, they were relatives of one another. 

Because they couldn't pass through Edom, they were now taking a detour.  They were going around Edom.   It was while they are going around Edom, they come to a place called Mt. Hor.  It is here that God said Aaron was going to die, up on Mt. Hor.  So, He told Moses, Aaron, and Aaron's son, Eleazar, to go up on top of the mountain.  God told Moses to strip the priestly garments off of Aaron, and put them on his son, Eleazar.  And, on the top of Mt. Hoar is where Aaron died, and was buried.  We don't know the exact location, but if you were to go to the extended Holy Land today, you would be able to find a tomb that was built for Aaron on the top of the mountain.

-The detour continues.  They are on their way to The Red Sea.  The Canaanites who are living in that area come out to attack the Children of Israel.  And, they took some of them captive.  The Children of Israel prayed.  They said, “God, if you deliver us from the hand of the Canaanites, we will destroy them.”

God answered their prayer by delivering them from the Canaanites.  In turn, the Israelites did destroy those Canaanites.

-That gets us to our text for today, which is from Numbers, chapter 21, looking at verses 4 through 9.  Again, this is the beginning of the detour of the Children of Israel, now going on their way to the land God had promised to them, nearly forty years before this.  God's Word says:


They set out from Mount Hor along the road to The Red Sea to go around the land of Edom, but the people became very impatient along the way.  The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?  Look, there is not food!  There is no water!  And we are disgusted by this worthless food!”
The LORD sent venomous snakes among the people, and the snakes bit the people.  As a result many people from Israel died. 

The people went to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD and against you.  Pray to the LORD to take the snakes away from us.”

So, Moses prayed on behalf of the people.

The LORD said to Moses, “Make a venomous snake and put it on a pole.  If anyone who is bitten looks at it, he will live.” 

Moses made a bronze snake and put it on the pole.  If a snake had bitten anyone, if that person looked at the bronze snake, he lived.


These are your words, Heavenly Father.  Lead us in the way of truth.  Your Word is truth.



The Children of Israel had grown impatient.  Again, they were near the end of their forty years of wandering in the wilderness.  But, there was just this one last detour they needed to take, before they got to the land God had promised to them.  They had grumbled, and complained against Moses, and God.

Have you ever had to take a detour, and you became impatient along the way?  It is hard to believe it was already ten years ago, but in the summer of June, in the year 2008, do you remember the heavy rains that came to southern Wisconsin?  The water was so much that Lake Delton overflowed their banks, and washed part of it away.  Lake Delton emptied out, and because of that the Interstate was impassable.  They shut the Interstate down between here and the Wisconsin Dells.  People had to take a detour. 

I remember going to Synod Convention, and having to go through Madison, and having to go through Baraboo, on my way to Mankato, Minnesota.  It was slow, and it was going out of the way.  Boy, did I grow impatient along the way. 

It won't be long before Milwaukee Street is closed.  You maybe have seen detour signs that have popped up this last week.  The bridge going over Milwaukee Street, starting a week from now, is going to be closed to through traffic.  You are going to have to take a detour around. 

On their website, they say it is a four mile detour, and will take you 16 minutes to get around.  I am sure there are going to be people who grow impatient along the way.

With their impatience, the Children of Israel grumbled, and complained against God.  Here God had provided for them, throughout their nearly forty years in the wilderness.  “There is no food.  There is no water.  We detest this miserable food.  We detest this worthless food!”

What is it that God did?  As discipline, God sent venomous snakes among the people.  Those venomous snakes began to bite the people, and the people began to die, because of the venom from those snakes.

The Children of Israel quickly realized what they had done, and what they had done was wrong.  So, they went before the LORD in confession.  They confessed their sins.  They said, “We are sorry.  We are sorry we grumbled, and complained against you, Moses.  We are sorry we grumbled, and complained against you, O LORD.”

So, Moses went before God, on behalf of the people. 

We need to see two things.  Here, Moses is a 'type of Christ'. 

-Moses was the one who was between the Children of Israel, and the LORD.  Just as Jesus is between us, and God. 

-Moses was to intervene, or to intercede, and be that mediator, between the people, and God, just as Jesus is the mediator between us, and God.

You also see here, too, how God answers prayer.  The Children of Israel had asked in their life of prayer that God would take the venomous snakes away from them, so that they would not bite them, anymore.

God did answer their prayer, but He didn't answer their prayer in the way they asked for their prayer to be answered.  He didn't take the venomous snakes away, rather He told Moses to make a snake out of bronze.  And then, raise it up on a pole.  All the people had to do was keep looking up, to look up with eyes of faith, and believe that the bronze snake that had been made would prevent them from perishing, would prevent them from dying, and they would live.

We do know this.  We do know there were people who were bitten by the venom of sin, and they refused to look up at that bronze snake.  And, because they refused to look at that bronze snake, they perished.  Those who looked with eyes of faith at that bronze snake that had been fashioned, lived. 

I had forgotten this.  During the course of this past week, I remembered the end of the story of the bronze snake.  Here is what had happened in time.  You get into the time of the kings.  This is 2nd Kings.  It came to the time of King Hezekiah.  He was the thirteenth king of Judah.  (Now, just keep this time frame in mind.)  This is seven hundred years after Moses had fashioned the bronze snake.  Seven hundred years later, King Hezekiah was a good king.  He did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD.  He was reforming the evil practices of the Israelites.  So, he was getting rid of the worship of Baal.  He was getting rid of the worship of Asherah.  He came across the bronze snake people were worshiping, and burning incense to, seven hundred years after Moses had fashioned it.  He broke it, and smashed it into pieces, because the people were worshiping something that was created instead of worshiping the God of Israel.  It was broken to pieces so that the false god, that idol, that good luck charm, (as they had come to see it), would no longer be something they could put their trust in.  God wanted them to put their trust in Him.

As we look at our text for today, are we really any different than the Children of Israel?  They were bitten by the venom of a snake.  We are bitten by the venom of sin.  Go back into the Garden of Eden for a moment.  When Adam and Eve were tempted, and when Adam and Eve were being deceived by the devil, what form did the devil take on?  The devil took on the form of a serpent.  He took on the form of a snake.  He deceived Adam and Eve, and they fell into sin.  Ever since then, you and I have original sin. 

We have the venom of original sin inside of our bodies.  But, not only do we have the venom of sin inside of us, we have the venom of actual sin.  The devil comes to us on a daily basis.  He deceives us, and we fall into sin.  We are bitten by his venom. 

What is going to happen to us, because of our sin?  We are going to die.  We deserve to die, because of our sin. 

Just as the Children of Israel went before the LORD in prayer, so also we go before the LORD in prayer.  We ask that God would remove our sin from us. 

But, God doesn't just snap His finger, and take it away.  Here is what He does do.  Here is what Jesus told Nicodemus in our Gospel Lesson for today, as He goes back to remind Nicodemus of what God had done in The Old Testament. 

Jesus said,

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness,

so the Son of Man must be lifted up,

that whoever believes in Him,

will not perish,

but will have everlasting life.”

Just as the Children of Israel looked up at the bronze snake, when they were bitten by that venomous snake, as they kept looking up, believing, and trusting, they were saved. 

But, those people who did not look up, and were looking down, and looking away, perished. 

God's Word encourages us today to keep looking up, keep looking up at our Savior who was raised up on a pole, who was raised up on the pole of the cross.  Through His death, we have everlasting life, with Him in Heaven.

So, here is a warning, dear Christian friends.  I have seen this happen before with people who I have known.  Individuals have had friends, or a spouse who have taken them away from the cross of Christ, instead of bringing them to the cross of Christ.  By having friends, or a spouse who pulls us away from the cross of Christ, they are telling us to look down, or look away, and not to look up at our Savior, Jesus.  By looking down, and looking away, by not trusting, and not believing in Jesus, our Savior, the promise of everlasting life is lost.  Just as some of the Children of Israel perished, the same thing will happen to us.

God's Word encourages us to have friends and spouses that do not pull us away from the cross of Christ, but rather draw us to the cross of Christ, and help us to keep looking up, and through the eyes of faith, believe, just as Moses lifted up a snake on a pole in the Old Testament, Jesus, God's Son was raised up on the pole of the cross.  Through faith in Him, we have everlasting life in Heaven.

God grant this unto us for Jesus, our Savior's sake.



Dear Jesus,

We thank you that you raised yourself up on a pole so that we would have everlasting life.  We are sorry we have grumbled and complained against you, just like the Children of Israel did.  We thank you for loving us, and we thank you for forgiving us.

In your name we pray,