Numbers 21:1-22:20; Luke 1:26-56; Psalm 57:1-11; Proverbs 11:9-11
Once again we read about the Israelites speaking out "against God and against Moses" (Num. 21:5). It's not the first time they have complained about their circumstance, and I know it won't be the last. If you're like me, you wish they would get over it already and learn that it doesn't do any good to grumble and complain against God, nor try to do things better their own way. It never works. Never. Yet once again, they complain, and so this time God sends snakes that bite people and kill them. So, once again, the Israelites realize their mistake and want God to fix it. God tells Moses to "make a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived" (Num. 21:8). Wow, not the response I was expecting from God, right? Doesn't it seem like that has a huge potential to become an idol for them? I admit, I am surprised God used an image crafted by man to be a point of salvation. Sounds a lot like an idol.
Yet we know this isn't what's happening, at least at this point in time. Somehow, it's different. In John 3:14, Jesus himself quotes this passage and says, "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life." Jesus likens himself to the bronze snake. He is the one who can save us when all else seems lost, we only need to look and believe in him. Isn't our God a good God, who always provides a way out? He always provides salvation for those who are willing.
When we come to the New Testament in our reading today, it was fun to read about the announcement of this ultimate savior coming to earth. I absolutely love this passage in Luke with the angel talking to Mary and her response to him. It's so beautiful. And what a contrast her response is compared to the Israelites'. There is no grumbling or complaining, or saying, "This isn't going to work, God." Her words are, "I am the Lord's servant...May it be to me as you have said" (Lk. 1:38). She believed the angel when he told her nothing was impossible with God. She believed God would do what he said he would do. She believed God's way was good. She rejoiced and magnified him. She shared the good news with others. What a beautiful response. I smile every time I read it.
What will I do? How will I respond to God with what is happening in my life? Will I be like the Israelites - grumbling, complaining, wishing God would do things differently? Or will I be like Mary - humble, grateful, ready to be his servant? Make no mistake: what God asked Mary to do was no easy task. It would change her entire life completely, and not necessarily for the better in the eyes of the world. Yet she accepts, rejoices, and hurries off to share the good news.
My name is Mary, and I think this passage may have been influential in my parents’ minds as they came to name me (one of the other reasons I love this passage). I pray that I can live into that namesake and be a woman who says, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as [he] says." Yes, Lord, we say yes. Amen.
- Mary Matthias
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