An Interlude: Understanding and Mercy

In Christianity on September 15, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Gospel in Glass will require so many posts to describe the entire window, an occasional interlude will be posted on other topics, in hopes they, too, will be an encouragement.

Yesterday’s Mass readings prompted this interlude.  The reading from Numbers began, “With their patience worn out by the journey” (Numbers 21:4b). Depending on how you were feeling as you heard or read these words, you may not have needed more! How often have we thought, “Lord, this is hard.” Or “dear God, I am so tired.” Or “if You only gave me more money.” Or perhaps even, “Lord, let this cup pass from me.”¹

Yet, read further in Numbers 21. God sent serpents as a punishment for the people complaining about His provision and protection.  The serpents bit the people and many died.  This brought them to their senses and they said to Moses, “We have sinned in complaining.”²

Despite the punishment, there are two opportunities to see the immense richness of God’s grace in this passage. First note the understanding and compassion portrayed in the NAB translation.  The NIV and ESV render Numbers 21:4b as “the people became (or grew) impatient on the way.” That rendering almost suggests an inborn impatience that suddenly erupted.  How much more gracious, and how much more like our Heavenly Father, to recognize that their “patience was worn out by the journey.” It doesn’t make our complaining any less of an objective offense against God, but knowing that He understands our circumstances puts an open door before us to His mercy!

The second thing to notice is even more important. What was the remedy? God instructed Moses to make a symbol of the serpent and mount it on a pole. Anyone who had been bitten and looked upon this remedy, would live. This is a reminder to us that our Saviour was raised up on a cross before us! Our Saviour, our Remedy, suffered as no man ever suffered. So, as we look to Him and his cross, we should gain patience to bear the crosses we are asked to carry.

Our hope?  To be like Jesus, even in this. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”³ May we follow you, Lord Jesus Christ, and remember our crosses are small compared to Your own!

¹ Matthew 26:39, 42

² Numbers 21:7

³ Hebrews 12:2

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