On Mount Nebo in Israel, the place of Moses’ death, there stands an ancient church built by Egyptian Christians in the third century. In front of the church is a recent addition – the Brazen Serpent Monument. The sculpture is about 25 feet tall, and the pole is in the shape of a cross. Inscribed at the bottom are the words of Jesus to Nicodemus in John 3:14, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.” What does this account teach us about the work of Jesus on the cross?
First, sin violates the holiness of God and stirs up his righteous wrath. At several points in the wilderness journey, God came to the end of his patience, and poured out his anger. Their sin and rebellion violated his character causing his anger to burn. This was not an unpredictable emotional outburst, but a holy indignation. His motivation was love with a hope of turning their hearts back to him. Unfortunately, they never responded. Exodus 32:12 sums the wilderness experience this way, “The LORD’s anger burned against Israel and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the whole generation of those who had done evil in his sight was gone.”
When kids slap, sass, lie, cheat, steal, disrespect, or show ingratitude it stirs up a parent’s righteous wrath.
Good parents don’t sit passively or look the other way. Each offense brings a consequence. After repeated transgressions and unheeded warnings God sent the snakes. Hebrews 10:31 says, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
The other day a bee stung my daughter while eating outside. She screamed and jumped from the table. We examined the wounded area and saw the stinger hanging from the skin. The wounded area grew red and swollen. In the same way, sin stings the majestic holiness of God. Exodus 15:11 says, “Who among the gods is like you, LORD? Who is like you– majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” Psalm 18:30 says, “As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD’s word is flawless…”
To many, the Old Testament God is draconian, primitive, and violent. The God of the New is kind and gentle. But there is only one God and he never changes. While we see a progression in the way he revealed himself to humanity, his character has never wavered. Sin still angers God, but he waits patiently, wanting all to come to salvation. The New Testament tells us God is storing up his wrath for a day of judgment. Romans 2:5 says “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.”
Our nation just endured a painful, divisive Supreme Court nomination process. Only after hundreds of interviews, an FBI investigation, thousands of questions, and a televised hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, could an official vote take place. Politics aside, all Americans want a justice morally fit for this lifetime appointment. When we carefully look at the character of God there is no dispute. His record is without blemish. Because God is a holy judge he can’t disregard or tolerate sin. This is why he alone deserves our worship.