Numbers 20:14–21:35, 1 Corinthians 3:1–4:21, Psalm 18:31–50
Yesterday someone remarked that because of the size of my studio, that I am spoiled. I have to agree. I sometimes call myself God’s spoiled brat. However, this studio wasn’t even on my wish list.
When I was a new Christian, I thought God would be like my dad who spoiled me, and give me whatever I asked for. I learned the hard way that was not true. Over the years, I’ve become much more content. Now I just trust Him. If I need something, He will supply it; if I don’t, that is fine. He knows best, and this studio was His idea.
That said, I relate to the shameful condition of being a spoiled brat. Moses had a whole tribe of them to deal with . . .
“From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against 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 worthless food.’” Whiney brats, the lot of them.
God needed to teach them and arranged an unusual lesson. He “sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.’”
Moses did pray for the people, then He said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, that person could look at the bronze serpent and live. (Numbers 21:4–9)
In this situation, God could have stopped the snakes from biting, but that would only appease their complaining for a little while. Far better if they learned that when they were in dire straits, they must look to God’s provision for help. He was going to wean them from their ‘spoiledness.’
In the NT, Jesus reminded Nicodemas of this OT narrative when He explained to him the way of salvation. In Jesus’ interpretation, that story illustrates how people “bitten” by sin must turn to God’s provision. He put it this way: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14–15) Jesus is God’s answer to our need to be saved from sin.
Sin is essentially putting me first, wanting what I want when I want it. The Israel were guilty, but so is every person ever born. All sin and fall short of the glory of God, Christians included. The redemption of God sets us free from sin’s penalty (we look to Christ and live), but we still struggle with snake bite and selfishness. Paul wrote the Christians in Corinth and told them they were not taking care of their snake bites and had some growing up to do . . .
“But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? . . . . Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3 and 4:18–21)
Paul gave them an option. They could shape up, or they could face a stronger rebuke. When God disciplines me, I usually don’t get to pick what He will use to teach or correct me. At one time, I grumbled about this, but have learned that His discipline is far better than anything I might prefer. He knows what will get through to my stubborn self-centeredness!
In a way, I’m still His spoiled brat, yet it has become more His choice than mine. For this, I am deeply humbled.
“For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God? — the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.” (Psalm 18:31–33)