The Sovereignty of the Savior

Let me ask you some questions: Do you struggle with anxiety, people pleasing, inordinate anger, lust for influence, or hunger to rule? If so: Do you trust in the King of God’s Kingdom or are you trusting in the knockoff kings of your perceived kingdom? Who or what is the lord of your life? Your heart is giving allegiance to someone or something at all times. Is your allegiance in Messiah, who has come from heaven to earth to reconcile you to God?

In John 3, Jesus is clear in his discussion with Nicodemus; Jesus has authority to speak on the necessity of the New Birth because he is the Sovereign of God’s Kingdom. Jesus has absolute rule and ultimate power. Remember, Jesus is God in flesh. This is all true, but the way Jesus goes about ruling his subjects is counterintuitive to the monarchs of this world. Look at John 3:14-15 to see what I mean: “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.” Now, Jesus is referring to a disturbing story out of the book of Numbers in the 21st chapter. Moses was leading the people in the desert after they were brought out of Egypt. This is when God miraculously redeemed the Israelites out of slavery and they were on the way to the promised land. Although God had provided the Israelites with both drink and food while they journeyed, the grew incredibly discontent and irritable. So much so that they spoke against Moses and God, “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.”

Whats Up with the Fiery Serpents?

Then the LORD sent the snakes, not just any snakes but “fiery serpents.” Maybe some of you have a different translation, where it describes the snakes as “venomous.” This is true as well, but the literal Hebrew here is “fiery serpents.” What is the big deal? Its not that these snakes where on fire, but they set you on fire when they bit you, in a figurative sense. The symptoms were scorching inflamed swelling around the bite that spread. Also, it wouldn’t be long until the victim would have a raging fever and unquenchable thirst. This all added up to what felt like a consuming fire within and eventually you would die. Some of you are thinking, “all of this because some kids in the cafeteria complained about the lunch at school.” On the surface it might come across as an overreaction, but this was the way God chose to show the Israelites what was ultimately killing them, the poison in their souls: the venom from the Serpent in the Garden of Eden.

When God created everything, it was perfect and good. Humanity was in perfect communion with God where he was their father and they were his children. Their was no need for a new birth, because the first birth was not tainted by any sin. But something terrible happened. The Serpent came into the garden and his venom passed into the souls of humanity and since then we have been born with a consuming fire within our souls of deep discontent and dissatisfaction with God. Thus we live with an unquenchable thirst for something to satisfy us and we never find it because apart from deep communion with God, we will be forever discontent, forever irritable and forever grumbling. This is what was wrong at a soul level with the Israelites and the same goes for us. God sent the fiery serpents so they could understand what was really wrong with them and we can learn about us through this story as well. So what happened next?

What the Bronze Serpent Was, I am

The people realized what they had done and they confessed to Moses they sinned against him and God. They asked Moses to ask God to take away the snakes. But God had a better plan. Instead of just taking away the snakes, he provided a way for all those already infected with the poison to be healed. We see here that God knows that forgiveness is not enough for us, we need to be healed of the damage that sin has caused in our lives. So he told Moses to “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” Really?, make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole? Does this sound a little disturbing to you? Make a huge representation of the very thing that was killing them and by looking to it they would be healed, what is going on here? This would have been disturbing to the Israelites as well, the serpent represented evil and the animal was an unclean animal by the standards in Leviticus. But remember, Jesus connected himself to this story by basically saying, “What the bronze serpent was, I am.”

Paul helps us make sense out of the story of Numbers 21 and how Jesus references himself to it. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul writes: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Do you see what is happening here? On the cross Jesus does not become sinful, but he becomes sin. We see on the cross a huge legal representation of what it killing us and if we look to him we will not only be forgiven, but we will be healed as well. We see here that there is a great exchange happening on the cross. Jesus, in our place, on our behalf, takes the poison of sin upon himself so we would not ultimate die of it. Although completely righteous, he takes on the punishment of our evil. Although he is spotless, he absorbs the wrath of the unclean who eventually look to him.

Jesus is the Savior King of the Kingdom of God, So Trust Him

All the Israelites had to do to be healed was look at the bronze serpent. Moses did not say that those who could climb the pole at touch the serpent at the top would be healed. This would leave the weak dying and only the strong would live. Moses didn’t tell the people to do anything but look at the bronze serpent. Jesus’ shifts the word “look” to “believe” and the word “live” to “eternal life.” So what does Jesus mean here? He wants us to realize that all the other oppressive rulers of our hearts, the ones we trust more than him are really a sham. He wants us to realize we have been bitten by the Serpent and there is an evil poison within us that is swelling with fire, raging in fever and creating in our souls an unquenchable thirst for everything but God. And the only remedy, the only medicine that will forgive us and heal us his Jesus. This is repentance. Then he wants us to stop trusting in our doing, and start trusting in what he has done for us. This is faith. Based on the story Jesus alludes to in Numbers 21, this is the essence of what he means by “believe”: repentance and faith. Here is the main point of verses 9-15: Jesus is the Savior King of the Kingdom of God, so trust him.

Yet many of us have been truly born again and yet we still continue to sin and we still feel the effects of the Serpent’s poison. Although God has imparted new spiritual life within us, we live in a fallen world and are still people who sin. Until we await the New Heavens and the New Earth as depicted in Revelation 21, where there will be no sin and God will be with us; how do we deal with the Serpent’s poison in the here and now? The same way. Let me ask you some questions: What are you grumbling about? Why are you so discontent? What is the Egypt of your life that you want to return to as if your life will be better? What oppressive slavery do you find yourself running back to? Your chains are gone, the prison cell is unlocked and yet you willingly walk back in and shut the door behind you? God has provided so much sweet manna for you and you want to turn back on him in your complaining and nagging and never-ending grumbling about your situation. You are exchanging the truth for a lie and it is killing you. The Serpent’s poison has entered your system and your situation is on fire, you are flaming hot and are experiencing an unquenchable thirst. Nothing will cure it, you have tried everything. Jesus is saying, all your unbelief and doing will never heal you. You must admit you are poisoned and you must admit the only cure is Jesus. Look to Jesus and he will heal you and continue to heal you. As you believe the gospel more fully and consistently, God puts to death the sin that is killing you. Obviously, we will not reach perfection in this life, but those who are born again will see the results of repentance and faith, which leads to godliness – not the other way around.  Oh, how we should rest in the Sovereignty of the Savior!


About Daniel Ray
My wife and I live in Waxhaw, NC. Currently, I am a Sales Manager for a flooring company in Charlotte and also a distance student at UNCG. When I have time I like to hear live music, play golf, run, read good books, hike and ride my mountain bike. My wife and I are sinners saved by grace, trying to walk it out in grace.

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