There was no way around it…Joel was being asked to preach and we were heading to Tenga. It is just outside of the capital city of Bujambura. But the 25 minute drive made us feel like we were upcountry. No running water, outhouses (Josiah got his first chance to conquer this challenge), and long services with lots of choirs.
Joel shared from Numbers 21:4-9 and John 3:14-17:
The Israelites were ungrateful and complaining. They forgot what God had done for them. The people sinned in their complaining and ungratefulness. They doubted God’s promises and His faithfulness to them. They were no doubt hot and hungry and thirsty. But instead of asking God to provide for them and trusting His provision, they accused God and Moses of bringing them to the desert to die. They rejected the manna He had graciously provided. They were rejecting God’s plan for them and his love for them.
Verse 6. When we reject God or separate ourselves from Him, snakes are always ready to come among us. And these are not harmless snakes. They are venomous! They only come to kill and destroy. What do snakes usually represent in the Bible? Do you remember Genesis 3? Satan came as a snake to deceive Adam and Eve. He is always looking for ways to kill and destroy, to separate us from our Heavenly Father. And this is what happened to the Israelites- they were bitten by snakes and many of them died….
God’s answer to their prayer might be surprising to you. Many churches and preachers today are saying that if you have enough faith and if you pray the right prayers, you don’t have to deal with the snakes of the world. You won’t be sick. Your children won’t be hungry. Your crops will always be successful. If that is true of our God, we would expect him to answer Moses’ prayer by removing all of the snakes from the lives of the Israelites. But let’s look at how God actually answered the prayer.
Verses 8-9. God tells Moses to make a snake and put it up on a pole. Anyone who is bitten by a snake can look at the snake on the pole and live. Does God make the snakes go away? No. Does He keep the people from being bitten by the snakes? No. Does our God have the power to remove the snakes? Yes! Sometimes He chooses to answer our prayers by removing the snakes. When He does that, let us praise Him and give Him the glory. But at other times, God answers our prayers by giving us the strength to look at Him while we are suffering. He gives us a way through the pain. In this story we see that the Israelites continued to be bitten by the snakes but God gave them a way to live. There would be pain and suffering for a time but ultimately there would be life.