Snake Bit

Speaker: Pastor Chris Rosebrough
Church: Higher Things Youth Conference
Date: July 10th Vespers Service
Text: Numbers 21:4-9 & John 3:14-17

In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

We all remember Woody from the “Toy Story” movies, Woody was an old school toy with a string attached to his back, and when you pulled it and let it go, he had a preset number of sayings that he vocalized. Pull Woody's string one time and he might say, “Reach for the sky!” Pull it another time and he might say, “There’s a snake in my boots!” Now when Woody talks about a snake being in his boots it sounds like no big deal. Harmless, right? It’s so… Disney.

Well, for the children of Israel, when God sent those fiery serpents in the camp of Israel after they’d once again sinned against the Lord by grumbling against the One who had so mightily delivered them out of slavery, it was a big deal. These were no Disney snakes, they were the Nechashim Seraphim. Yeah, say that: Nechashim Seraphim. By the way you spell that in English: Neh—Phlegm—Ah… Yeah… Nechashim Seraphim is a Hebrew name, it’s a word play. And it describes the bronze desert adder, which has shiny metallic bronze colored scales and a venomous bite that makes his victims feel like they’ve been set on fire. Sign me up, right?

Now by the time Israel had collectively come to realize the magnitude of their sin, many, many people had already died. A delegation of the tribal leaders of Israel humbled themselves and came to Moses, to confess their sin and petition God to be merciful to them and take the serpents away.

And the Lord was merciful to them, but God did not remove the curse of the Nechashim Seraphim and said: the Lord had Moses fashion a Sacrament. A Sacrament? Yeah, a Sacrament. Basically a Sacrament is earthly matter that God has attached His promises to through His Word.

But in this case the promise of deliverance from the fiery serpents wasn’t attached to water, bread or wine, instead it was attached to an ugly bronze snake and rather than remove the curse of the Nechashim Seraphim God gave the children of Israel the Sacrament not to remove the curse, but to see them through the curse. So that day the bronze smith and the camp of Israel cast an image made to look as one of the Nechashim Seraphim and after it was cast the children of Israel heard the hammer blows as the bronze serpent was affixed to a pole.

What no one know that day was that those hammer blows were echoes of the hammer blows that drove the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet. For you see: thanks to Jesus we know that the story that we’ve just read about the bronze serpents in Numbers 21 paints a picture in Biblical types and shadows of the story that we find ourselves in. Now you maybe tempted to think that the story about the bronze serpent has really nothing to do with you, after all you are not snake bit. But let me remind you that scripture says that you are.

Remember the details from Genesis 3 about our race’s fall into sin. Remember there was a garden, a tree, a man and a woman and a serpent. On that dark day the serpent envenomated our first parents, not with his fangs but with these poisonous words: did God really say? Now with the serpents poison still dripping in their ears our first parents ate the forbidden fruit and plunged themselves and all of us, their descendants into a curse.

Each one of us, sons of Adam and daughters of Eve were born with the serpents poison coursing through our veins. Conceived and born dead in trespasses and sins, we’ve all been snake bit and this poison not only kills it’s victims temporal bodies, it eventually causes it’s victims resurrected bodies to be thrown into the fires of hell. In other words Satan is the ultimate fiery serpent.

Now if you’re not sure if you’ve been snake bit, thankfully Moses has left us an objective means for testing to see if we have been envenomated by the serpents’ poisonous words. So let’s use Moses’ snake bite verification test, you can find this in Exodus chapter 20 and see if there is anyone here free from the serpents poison. Just kind of mentally tick this off in your mind, I won’t make you raise your hand, because that would be embarrassing.

So if you’ve ever feared, loved or trusted in anything above God then you are snake bit. If you’ve ever taken the Lords name in vain, if you’ve ever despised hearing and learning God’s word and have not held it sacred and have not gladly heard and learned it, then you are snake bit. And I don’t care if your pastor is a nerd and his sermons are more dry than the Sahara desert, that is no excuse. If you’ve ever despised or angered your parents… Selah, then you’re snake bit.

If you’ve ever hurt or harmed your neighbor in his body or haven’t befriended him or her to help care for his or her bodily needs, you’re snake bit, if you’ve ever done anything that is sexually immoral, stolen anything that is not yours, lied about your neighbor or coveted something that someone else owned, you are snake bit. So today I’m here to proclaim to all of you that you are snake bit. The venom is fatal, eternally fatal, lake of fire fatal, fires of hell fatal, but that is not all I’m here to proclaim, for you see way back in the garden of Eden, at the scene of the crime if you would where the serpent maliciously and murderously envenomated Adam and Eve and through them the entire human race, there was a promise given of the One Who would crush the head of the serpent. If you pay attention to the details it makes it clear that in the process of defeating that satanic snake, that that person, that seed that was promised, he would be struck in the heel. And Jesus is the One who was promised to us in the garden of Eden. And by being struck in the heel, He too was envenomated by the serpent. But although He died, He also concurred death by rising again and now His blood is filled with antivenom. And Jesus’ antivenom filled blood was there mixed in the waters of your Baptism on the day when Christ washed away your sins.

His antivenom filled blood is truly present for you to drink each and every time you partake of the Lord’s Supper. God in His abundant mercy has given you a Sacrament, not of a bronze serpent, but instead the Sacrament that delivers into your mouth the very body and blood of His only begotten Son, so that you can be saved, not from but through this present curse. Now all of this begs the question: Why?

Why would God give a bunch of snake bit rebels like me and like you, people who do not love Him with our whole hearts, who do not love our neighbors as ourselves, such a precious and costly gift as the antivenom filled blood of the only begotten Son of God. Well, our Gospel-text tells us: “For God so loved the World.” That’s right. Jesus wants me to tell you that He truly loves you. “God so loved the world,” that’s you, “that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish.” You will not perish in the fires of hell, you will not be thrown into the lake of fire, God loves you, you will not perish, you will have eternal life. “For God did not send His son to the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” That’s right.

God loves snake bit rebels like me and like you, God loves us so much that He was willing to take the snake’s venom into His own body and die for us, that His body and blood would become the wellspring of antivenom for the whole world. God loves you so much that He would rather take the hit for us, rather than condemn us to eternal death, by letting the serpents venom run it’s course.

As the great Lutheran scholar, Johann Gerhard wrote: “Christ was let into captivity, so that we would never have to be eternally captive to the devil. Christ was bound so He would rescue us from the bonds of sin and hell.”

Christ was struck in the face, so that we would not be eternally battered with the fists of satan and his angels, Christ was falsely accused, so that the law could not accuse us before Gods judgement.

Christ kept His silence when He was falsely accused, so that we would not have to be struck dumb before Gods judgement. Christ was despised so that we would not end up in eternal humiliating disgrace. Christ was stripped of His clothes, so that He would win for us the garment of His righteousness. Christ was sentenced and condemned to death, so that we do not end up in eternal death. Christ felt nothing less than that He was actually forsaken by God, and that’s what He cried out on the Cross:

“Eloi Eloi, Lama Sabachthani. My God, my God why have You forsaken me?”

So that we would not be eternally forsaken and rejected by God. Christ died, so that we might live forever. Or as the Apostle Paul put it in Galatians chapter 3:

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, by becoming a curse for us. For it is written, cursed it everyone who is hung on a tree. So as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up and He most certainly was, so that whoever believes in Him might have eternal life.”

You who are snake bit, look upon and believe in your loving crucified Savior Jesus Christ and you will live.

In the Name of Jesus, Amen.