The Way to God- Numbers 21:4–9

Advent 2022  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Scripture Reading: John 3:1–21

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The Way to God- Numbers 21:4–9

We are going to begin this morning’s sermon by going all the way back to the beginning of everything. In the book of Genesis we read about the creation of everything. When God created man, God made this unique creation of body and soul in His own image. God gave Adam clear directions. Adam’s purpose was to spread the glory of God over all the earth.
God gave Adam one prohibition: do not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God blessed Adam with a companion, Eve, placed this first man in the Garden of Eden, literally paradise on earth.
A. W. Pink once wrote, “In full-grown manhood, with every faculty perfect, amid ideal surroundings, he rejected the good and chose the evil. He was not deceived: Scripture declares he was not (1 Tim. 2:14). He knew well what he was doing. Direful were the consequences: the death sentence fell upon Adam the day in which he sinned, though for the sake of his posterity the full execution of it was delayed.” —Discourse on Divine Covenants, 69.
Adam’s choice to reject his glorious, trustworthy, unimaginably good God to serve his own desires thrust humanity and the entirety of creation into the throes of decay and death and sin. Since that point in Genesis chapter 3, humanity not only does not know God, but Scripture teaches us that humanity actively opposes God (Rom. 3:10–18; 1 John 2:15–17).
We have an incurable disease, a spiritual pox that has marred that sweet image of God in us. We are, like Adam, banished from the Garden of Eden, the physical place of God’s glorious presence. In a word, humanity has lost its way to God. We are, left to our own, without hope. We are, if dependent upon our own goodness, of all men most miserable. We are doomed.
Was God surprised at this? Was God shocked that the crown of His creation would so quickly turn his back on his Creator, spurning His incredible and gracious love?
No, our gracious God was not surprised. He knew, before He handcrafted Adam, that Adam would reject Him. He knew that humanity would lose its way to God. Therefore, Paul says, “He chose us in him [i.e., Christ]” Eph. 1:4.
You see, God knew what would happen, and He planned our redemption, our way back to God through Jesus His Son.
Revelation 13:8
Revelation 13:8 NKJV
All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
God, before one single human being sinned, planned our way back to Him through His precious Son, Jesus Christ. It is the “mystery of His will,” Eph. 1:9, whereby lost and dead sinners would receive the lavish grace of God through redemption in Jesus Christ.
This mystery was revealed in Genesis 3:15 “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”” This Seed of the Woman is slowly, patiently, and beautifully revealed as redemptive history progresses from Adam to Abraham, from Abraham to Isaac, and to Jacob. And from Jacob, this plan is revealed to Moses, to the people of Israel, to David, and ultimately revealed with the Advent of Jesus Messiah.
All who, according to John’s Gospel Account, believe will be delivered from sin and death. Jesus, my brothers and sisters, is the way to God. He declares with unrivaled and unquestioned authority, John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
“The Bible [the whole Bible, OT, NT, Law, Prophets, narratives, etc.] is a unified book centered in Jesus Christ,” —Stephen Wellum & Trent Hunter, Christ from Beginning to End
We journey back over 3,000 years from today, and about 1,400 years from the first Advent of Jesus, to the wilderness near the Red Sea. Israel, having gone out of Egypt through God’s incredible and redemptive power, have been wandering in the wilderness for many years. Dealing with the challenges of the wilderness, the hardness of their ungrateful hearts, and the frailties of human leaders, Israel finds herself in a similar position as Adam.
Even in this account we see the Way to God is through Jesus Christ. We see in this account a mini-gospel, a microcosm of the glorious Gospel. A display of human evil, God’s grace, and the wonders of salvation. It is like one bright and beautiful star in the midst of a host of stars all shining for the glory of God.
We cannot get to God without Jesus Christ.

I. The People of Israel were hopelessly lost- 21:4–5

Before we dive into our passage, let’s get an idea of where we are in Israel’s journey. This untrained group of slaves have fought numerous battles since their departure from Egypt. They have faced death daily, dependent on the goodness and provision of God.
Their leaders have fallen multiple times. We see in Exodus 32 that great sin of the leaders, specifically Aaron. Korah and his buddies rebelled against the LORD. Thousands of the people of Israel have died under the righteous and just hand of God.
In the previous two chapters several terrible events occur. At the beginning of chapter 20, Moses’s sister died. Then the people, once again, faced the difficulties of the wilderness, needed water. God instructed Moses to speak to the rock, Moses disobeys, and is prohibited from entering the Promised Land.
The discouragement must have been immense at this point, but it gets worse. Edom, a relative of Israel by the way, would not allow Israel to pass (which would have shortened their travels immensely).
Then Aaron died. Then a Canaanite king captured some of them as prisoners. The LORD delivered, but I imagine the people of Israel felt similar to Job when messenger after messenger brought bad news.
Now, I regularly preach with the ESV, but I think they missed a vital point in translating verse 4. The ESV simply says Israel became impatient on the way. The KJV has “and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.”
It is then they complain against the LORD. They tell God that they “loathe this worthless food.” Or, worthless bread. They are referring to the miracle bread from heaven.
Can you imagine the audacity? Can you imagine a greater display of ungratefulness and wickedness of heart? What we see in this Old Testament passage is simply a reflection of Romans 1:18–32. I will only read Romans 1:21 “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
Israel was, to borrow Paul’s phrase in Ephesians 2:1–3, dead in trespasses and sins. They were hopelessly lost. The very one who could meet all their needs was the very one who received their harshest rejection.
We, today, are dead on our trespasses and sins. We are hopelessly lost, like Adam and Eve we have been banished from the Garden of God’s presence.

II. The People of Israel were helplessly dying- 21:6

Israel defied the LORD, and the LORD punished Israel. He sent “fiery serpents” and they killed many Israelites. That is, death came upon man. There was nothing they could do, as demonstrated by their utter dependence upon the LORD.
The world is dying, all succumb to it. Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—”
All are helplessly dying. We are spiritually dead and physically dying, as Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:1–3.
We are like the blind man, Bartimaeus, in Mark chapter 10, helplessly calling our “Son of David, have mercy on me!” The death of these Israelites brought about hopeful repentance.

III. The People of Israel were hopefully repentant- 21:7

Israel called out to the LORD through Moses their mediator. Why? Why would Israel turn to the One they had just spurned?
Oh, what a sweet and delightful truth we see here: God revealed Himself to Israel in this way, Exodus 34:6–7 “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.””
What hope do such fallen, wicked, despicable, disgusting, ungrateful, unworthy people have? Christmas shots from the top of its lungs: THE LORD IS MERCIFUL!
John Bunyan, in his sermon Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, commenting on John 6:37, says this,
But I am a great sinner, say you.
“I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.
But I am an old sinner, say you.
“I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.
But I am a hard-hearted sinner, say you.
“I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.
But I am a backslidding sinner, say you.
“I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.
But I have served Satan all my days, say you.
“I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.
But I have sinned against light, say you.
“I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.
But I have sinned against mercy, say you.
“I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.
But I have no good thing to bring with me, say you.
“I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ.
Come to God because Jesus has made the way!

IV. The LORD was graciously forgiving- 21:8–9

The LORD provided a means of healing from the serpents: the brass serpent. The moment the Israelite looked to this brazen serpent they were healed. It was remarkable!
But you know what? Eventually that Israelite would die, whether from old age or disease or war, death was inevitable. They would die.
Exodus 34:6–7 “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.””
Isaiah 53:4–6 “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
But this serpent served a greater purpose: it pointed to Jesus Christ.
John 3:14–15 “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.”
The LORD was and is graciously forgiving because Jesus came to earth, lived in perfect obedience to the Law, died for the sins of those who would believe, and all who look to Him will have eternal life!
Have you forgotten this glorious news? Does the yearly celebration of Advent cause you to treat this good news with apathy?
Have you looked to the Son of God? Perhaps you need to be saved today!
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