THE VISION OF CHRIST AND CALVARY
Discouragement. Numbers 21:4
"This people grew impatient over the route." —Moffatt. The further delay of the Exodus Movement to enter the promised land because of the second failure at Kadesh and the consequent detour around the land of Edom, produced discouragement and impatience among the Israelites. Impatience is one of the chief fruits of discouragement. Moses and Aaron became impatient at the waters of Meribah because of their disappointment and discouragement over the murmurings and rebellion of Israel which resulted in their second failure to meet the test of faith and enter the promised land through Kadesh-Barnea, "the appointed route to Canaan."
The second retreat from the borders of the promised land produced a spiritual depression resulting in an impatient and irritable temper. "It was not merely the heat and drought and ruggedness of the route which depressed them, but the fact that they were marching directly away from Canaan, and knew not how they were ever to reach it." —Pulpit Commentary. It was "the soul of the people" that was "much discouraged because of the way." The depression was not so much physical as spiritual. They were depressed in spirit which is the most serious of all depressions. The great economic depression through which the world has been passing has effected only for their good the souls of those whose hearts have been filled with faith, hope and courage. Physical or financial depressions do not discourage the souls of those who maintain their union with God. The Israelites were "much discouraged" because they had committed a great sin in rejecting the call and leadership of God. Sin is the root of discouragement and impatience. Jesus was never discouraged or impatient because He knew no sin.
The Result. Verse 5
Discouragement leads to criticism especially of leaders. The Israelites laid their failures onto Moses and charged him with the cause of their defeat and depression. Unjustified criticism is always an excuse for personal defects and failings. Adam attempted to excuse his disobedience by accusing Eve of leading him into sin and criticizing God for creating her. It is human nature to try to escape the responsibility for our own acts. It is for this reason that discouraged and disgruntled persons are always severe critics and their criticism is especially directed towards leaders. They are what and where they are because of some real or imagined mistake on the part of leaders. This was one of the chief sins that delayed the final triumph of the Exodus Movement, and it is also the principal sin that has kept back the refreshing showers of the early and latter rain and thus delayed the final triumph of the Advent Movement. Criticism of leaders is the chief stock in trade of apostates and their divergent movements. They live on the putrefying flesh of the dead. This is one of the distinguishing characteristics of false teachers and counterfeit religious movements.
The Serpents. Verse 6
These serpents were permitted to visit the camp of Israel because of their criticism and complaining. In criticizing Moses and murmuring against the human leadership of the movement the Israelites were tempting Christ, their Divine Leader. This was the reason for the visitation of the deadly serpents. 1 Corinthians 10:9,10. Criticism and murmuring are terrible sins which lead to destruction. They caused the downfall of Lucifer and his angels and turned them into serpents whose sting of sin produces eternal death. The Lord endeavored to teach Israel and His people in all future generations that severe and unjust criticism is like the sting of an adder. It injects poison into the system of its victims and especially does it bring destruction to those who indulge in it. The apostle James declares that the critical and untamed tongue is "a world of iniquity" that "defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature, and is set on fire of hell;" that is it is "an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." —James 3:6, 8.
Later Moses declared that this experience took place in "a great and terrible wilderness" not only infested with "fiery serpents" but also with "scorpions." Deut. 8:15. The serpents were called "fiery" first of all because of the result of their sting. "The poisonous serpents that infested the wilderness were called fiery serpents, on account of the terrible effects produced by their sting, it causing violent inflamation and speedy death." —P.P. 429. The poison produced fiery red inflamation and a burning fever which was fatal. It is also believed that the serpents were called "fiery" because of their color which resembled the "copper snakes" of Australia and other countries. The fact that Moses made the metallic serpent of brass or copper might also indicated that they were of that color.
The Sting of Death
The serpents were symbolic of Satan and his angels whose sting of sin brings death. In Rev. 12:9, Satan is called "that old serpent" who "deceiveth the whole world." In the garden of Eden the fallen angel used the instrumentality of a serpent to deceive Eve and lead her into sin and thus deprive our first parents of their paradise home. The experience that came to the Israelites just after they had failed the second time to enter Canaan was doubtless designed to teach them that their sins were keeping them out of the promised land. The lesson is also for us "upon whom the ends of the world are come," for this tragic experience was recorded "for our admonition." All through the camp of Israel the deadly serpents crawled and from every direction came the cry of pain and the wail of woe. The dying and dead were everywhere and there was no remedy. Because they had been "much discouraged" and indulged in much criticism, "much people of Israel died." The same stinging criticism in the Advent Movement has opened the way for the great serpent to enter the camp or church with the deadly poison of sin and as the result "much people" of modern Israel are dying spiritually and falling out by the way. Back-biting serpents are infesting the camp of modern Israel with tragic consequences to many.
Repentance. Verse 7
The fearful results of sin brought confession and repentance. The Israelites acknowledged that in speaking against Moses they had also "spoken against the Lord" and had "sinned." They asked Moses to pray for them and "Moses prayed for the people." When they were in trouble they asked for the prayers of the very one they had so severely and unjustly criticized. Moses showed a fine Christian spirit and interceded for them and the Lord heard his prayer and instructed him how to provide a remedy that would at the same time test the faith of the victims of the serpents sting of death. They had twice failed to enter the promised land "because of unbelief" and they must learn the lesson of faith before they could succeed.
The Remedy. Verses 8, 9
Jesus declared that this brazen serpent lifted up on the pole in the wilderness was symbolic of Himself lifted up on the cross of Calvary. John 3:14-17. Brass is made of a mixture of copper and zinc, so Jesus was a combination of the divine and human. He was the God-man, or "God manifest in the flesh." The serpent was symbolic of sin, and Christ came "in the likeness of sin." He was therefore represented by symbol of sin. Jesus was made "to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." —2 Corinthians 5:21. "By man came death" and therefore Jesus must come "in the likeness of sinful flesh" in order to destroy the author of sin and death and "deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." See Hebrews 2:14,15. The Deliverer must come in the likeness of the Destroyer.
Antidote of Poison
It was His coming to earth in "sinful flesh" and "in the likeness of sin" that made it possible for Christ to counteract the poison of sin and destroy "that old serpent, the devil and Satan." There was no deadly poison in the brazen serpent and there was no sin in Christ. He was lifted up on the cross "in the likeness of sinful flesh" in order that He might save from the deadly virus of sin and eternal death all who behold Him through the eyes of faith. Jesus is the great antitoxin for the poison of sin which is injected into out characters by the sting of the great serpent. A vision of Christ on the cross of Calvary is the only remedy for sin. "Whosoever" looks and believes shall "not perish, but have everlasting life." Beholding Christ is the antidote for death and the elixir of eternal life.
Israel's Great Need
For almost forty years the Israelites had so far lost sight of Christ and Calvary that the celebration of the Passover was denied them. Unlike Moses, they had not "endured as seeing Him who is invisible." The pillar of fire by night and cloud by day, which represented the visible presence of Christ, meant nothing to them. This was the cause of their failure both times at Kadesh-Barnea. Now Israel is brought to the place where they are compelled to look to Christ as their only hope. The only requirement of the serpent-bitten victims was to look, and the look of faith brought life. Doubtless many in the camp had no faith in the remedy and they died in hopeless agony. The remedy may have seemed unscientific and unreasonable to them and therefore useless. It took faith to apply the remedy.
The announcement of the remedy for the venom of the serpents was glad tidings to the hopeless victims. "The joyful news sounded throughout the encampment that all who had been bitten might look upon the brazen serpent and live. Many had already died, and when Moses raised the serpent upon the pole, some would not believe that merely gazing upon the metallic image would heal them; these perished in their unbelief. Yet there were many who had faith in the provision which God had made. Fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters were anxiously engaged in helping their suffering, dying friends to fix their languid eyes upon the serpent. If these, though faint and dying, could only once look, they were perfectly restored. … They could not help themselves from the fatal effect of the poison of their wounds. God alone was able to heal them. Yet they were required to show their faith in the provision which He had made. They must look in and by looking upon the serpent their faith was shown. They knew that there was no virtue in the serpent itself, but it was a symbol of Christ, and the necessity of faith in His merits was thus presented to their minds. … That look implied faith. They lived because they believed God's word, and trusted in the means provided for their recovery." —P.P. 430-432.
The Advent Movement
The Advent Movement is now making its anti-typical journey around Edom and the experiences of ancient Israel are being repeated. Again "we are repeating the history of that people." The message of 1888 and its repetition in recent years brought us to the very borders of the heavenly Canaan but we "could not enter in because of unbelief." As a people we have failed to behold Christ and Calvary. We are told that the message of 1888 was given because "many had lost sight of Jesus," and "they needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family." We are told that this is "the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in a large measure." See T.M. 92.
"Do not try to draw the attention of the people to yourselves. Let them lose sight of the instrument, while you exalt Jesus. Talk of Jesus; lose self in Jesus. There is too much bustle and stir about our religion, while Calvary and the cross are forgotten." "A spirit of worldliness and selfishness has deprived the church of many a blessing. … A clear, steady view of the cross of Christ would counteract their worldliness, and fill their souls with humility, penitence and gratitude. … A deadly spiritual malady is upon the church. Its members are wounded by Satan, but they will not look to the cross of Christ, as the Israelites looked to the brazen serpent, that they may live. The world has so many claims upon them that they have not time to look to the cross of Calvary long enough to see its glory or to feel its power." —Vol. 5:133, 202.
Our Only Hope. Revelation 3:20
Christ is outside the door of the church-temple and the individual hearts of modern Israel, and He calls for us to "behold" Him and let Him in. We are as helpless of ourselves as were the Israelites in the wilderness when they were bitten by the serpents. Our only hope is in Christ. "Nothing but the righteousness of Christ can entitle us to one of the blessings of the covenant of grace. There are many who have long desired and tried to obtain these blessings, but have not received them, because they have cherished the idea that they could do something to make themselves worthy of them. … Let none look to self, as though they had power to save themselves. Jesus died for us because we are helpless to do this. In Him is our hope, our justification, our righteousness. … Look and Live. Jesus has pledged His word. He will save all who come to Him. Though millions who need to be healed will reject His offered mercy, not one who trusts in His merits will be left to perish. … It is our duty, first, to look, and the look of faith will give us life." —P.P. 431, 432. It is just as hard to us to learn the lesson that there is life in a look at Christ and Calvary as it was for the Israelites. We desire to do something to merit eternal life.
Result of Beholding. 2 Corinthians 3:18; John 6:40; 12:31, 32
"Holy men of old were saved by faith in the blood of Christ. As they saw the dying agonies of the sacrificial victims they looked across the gulf of ages to the Lamb of God that was to take away the sins of the world." -"Sketches from the Life of Paul." —p. 242. "At the gate of Damascus the vision of the Crucified One changed the whole current of Paul's life." —Ed. 65. "As the sinner, drawn by the power of Christ, approaches the uplifted cross, and prostrates himself before it, there is a new creation. A new heart is given him. He becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus. Holiness finds that it has nothing more to require." —C.O.L. 163. "Pride and self-esteem cannot flourish in the hearts that keep fresh in memory the scenes of Calvary." "Reflections of Calvary will awaken tender, sacred, and lively emotions in the Christian's heart. It will fill the mind, touch and melt the soul, refine and elevate the affections, and completely transform the whole character." —Vol. 2:212.
Power of the Cross. 1 Corinthians 2:2; Galatians 2:20; 6:14
"If sinners can be led to give one earnest look at the cross, if they can obtain a full view of the crucified Saviour, they will realize the depth of God's compassion and the sinfulness of sin." —A.A. 209. "The existence of sin is unexplainable, therefore not a soul knows what God is until he sees himself in the light reflected from the cross of Calvary and detests himself as a sinner, in the bitterness of his soul." —T.M. 254. "To remove the cross from the Christian would be like blotting the sun from the sky. Without the cross, man would have no union with the Father. On it depends our only hope. From it shines the light of the Saviour's love, and when at the foot of the cross the sinner looks up to the One who died to save him, he may rejoice with fulness of joy for his sins are pardoned. Kneeling in faith at the cross, he has reached the highest place to which man can attain." —A.A. 209, 210.
The very crux of the remedy for the Laodicean condition of modern Israel is to behold Christ and Him crucified. While the Israelites were making their detour around Edom they were given a vision of Christ and Calvary which marked the beginning of a victorious march toward the promised land. While the Advent people are experiencing the antitype of Israel's detour they too will get a vision of Christ on the cross and it will mark the beginning of a triumphant march to the heavenly Canaan. The spiritual barrenness of their wilderness journey will drive them to Christ as their only hope, and to Calvary as the only remedy for the ravages and poison of sin. When the message to behold Christ as man's only hope is being given to God's remnant people it will be evident that our journey is about over and we will soon reach our heavenly home. Just as Moses had to send a message throughout the camp of Israel announcing the remedy for the poison of the serpents, so likewise a message will be given the Advent people announcing the remedy for the Laodicean condition. This message will center in the uplifted Christ and His righteousness. This message is now being given and it will soon swell into the loud cry.
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