Month: November 2012

Numbers

Many are familiar with John 3: 16.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

But out of all of those who know John 3: 16, how well do they know verses 14 and 15?

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

Jesus references an account recorded in the twenty-first chapter of Numbers; a bizarre one-time incident demonstrating both God’s wrath and a redemption outside of the Mosaic Law.  Was it not for Jesus’ reference to Moses and the serpent, the account would be but a strange story in the history of Israel.  Yet because of the gospel of Jesus, this strange story becomes prophetic in the same way that the Passover is prophetic; it foreshadows the gospel of Jesus Christ and New Testament doctrine.

Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey.  The people spoke against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?  For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.”  The LORD sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.  So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD and you; intercede with the LORD, that He may remove the serpents from us.”  And Moses interceded for the people.  Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.”  And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.  Numbers 21: 4 – 9

It is easy for the casual reader of Scripture to overlook this account, because just as quickly as it comes it goes.  There is not really another significant reference to this passage in the rest of the Old Testament.  Yet because of Jesus’ words we know that the Holy Spirit intended for this account to be used to foreshadow the gospel of Christ.  Consider then, this Old Testament passage and its support of New Testament doctrine:

  • The people grumbled against God and Moses and were being afflicted unto death.  The New Testament teaches
    “For the wages of sin is death…”  Romans 6: 23
  • The people in their sin could not have imagined God sending serpents to smite them unto death, and yet God also allowed Moses to intercede for the ignorant people.  The New Testament teaches that we, in our sin, are ignorant of God’s wrath and need intercession to be saved. 
    “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”  Luke 23: 34
  • The antidote to being bitten by a serpent was to look at a serpent.  The New Testament teaches that the answer to our sin is to look upon Him who became sin. 
    “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  2 Corinthians 5: 21

Regarding The Scarlet Thread, this account of Moses and the serpent is a particularly fun passage to study, because Jesus Himself specifically references it and alludes to how we ought to read the passage in light of the cross of Christ.  And yet it also serves as a stark warning to everyone who hears the gospel preached.  The Apostle Paul references the passage in his warning to the Corinthian church, which was plagued with sin:

Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents…Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.  Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.  1 Corinthians 10: 9, 11 – 12

Leviticus

Jesus was tested one day by a lawyer and asked what the great commandment was.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And He said to him, “’You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the great and foremost commandment.  The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22: 36 – 40

Jesus’ source of the second great commandment is Leviticus (the first great commandment was from Deuteronomy).

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.  Leviticus 19: 18

Regarding this law of God, the New Testament tells us this:

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.  Romans 3: 19 – 20
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…Romans 3: 23
…for the Law brings about wrath…Romans 4: 15
I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said “You shall not covet.”  But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead.  I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.  Romans 7: 7 – 11
For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.”  Galatians 3: 10
For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.  But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin…Galatians 3: 21 – 22

The primary function of the law in Biblical teaching is to prepare you for the gospel of Jesus Christ by exposing your sins and your need for a salvation outside of the law.  For no one has ever “loved God and loved neighbor” according to the standards of God.  Without Christ we would be condemned.

For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.  John 1: 17

Exodus

Pictured in the Passover are both the first and second comings of Christ.

Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover lamb.  You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning.  For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you.  Exodus 12: 21 – 23

The first coming is pictured in the slaying of the lamb, for Jesus Christ was crucified during Passover and is called the “Lamb of God”.

When Jesus had finished all these words, He said to His disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.” Matthew 26: 1 – 2
Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.  Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover…John 19: 13 – 14
Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  John 1: 29
…For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.  Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.  1 Corinthians 5: 7 – 8

The Israelites were asked to slay the lamb and apply it’s blood to their home; we are asked to believe in the One who was slain so that we might be redeemed by His blood.

The second coming of Christ is pictured in the destroyer who “passed over” the homes with the blood of the lamb on their lintel and doorposts and who smote those without the blood.  When Christ returns He will judge the world in similar fashion: His eternal wrath will pass over those saved by His blood and will fall upon those who would rather boast in their works rather than in the blood of Christ.

…you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.  1 Peter 1: 18 – 19
How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?  Hebrews 10: 29
Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”  Revelation 6: 15 – 17
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life…He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  John 3: 16, 18