From The Venom of Snakes Comes Redemption

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Genesis 12:1-4a

Psalm 121

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

John 3:1-17

  • “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” – Genesis 12:3
  • 16. For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us). – Romans 4:16
  • And just 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. – John 3:14-15

“And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness…”

What is Christ referring to here? What is he comparing his coming crucifixion to?

Jesus is referring to a passage found in chapter 21 from the book of Numbers. In this chapter, the people of Israel have just obliterated an army of Canaanites, and instead of praising God, they start to bitch and complain (as we all would) because they never seem to be done wandering in the wilderness of the desert, while being beset at every turn with bloodshed and war. So Old Covenant God sends his wrath upon these “impatient people” in the form of fiery serpents whose venom caused great fevers and death. The Israelites cry out for mercy, and God instructs Moses to create a bronze serpent and place it on a staff as a symbol for all too see, and any who look upon it will not die if they are bitten.

Now, for a moment, set aside the horror the scene just described, set aside your distaste for a God that would visit such pain and suffering upon his “Chosen People”, and let us remember this is all the language of ancient metaphor and examine it in that context.

God told Moses to raise up a symbol of the very thing causing them fear, suffering and death, and from that symbol would come healing, mercy and life. How astounding!

And isn’t even more astounding when we realize that this metaphor of “creating good from bad” is exemplified in the real-life medical utilization of snake venom:

Snake Venom is collected and processed to create treatments for:

  • Snake Bites (anti-venom)
  • Cancer
  • Hypertension
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Stroke
  • Blood Clotting
  • Blood Thinning
  • Parkinson’s Disease

So much “good” has been created from something so “bad”!

Now we turn to our passage from John 3, and we can’t help but wonder now, what was Jesus getting at?

Jesus purposefully references the bronze snake on the staff, “… And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up…”, and later refers to himself as the Son of God, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…”

In the person of Jesus, both the Son of Man and the Son of God are being raised up. Mankind and God are being raised “upon the staff”.

Is Jesus saying that there is a direct correlation between raising the thing that is “bad” to create from it something “good”???

This is an incredible statement from Jesus, and it carries a profound meaning in metaphor that has been lost in modern Christianity:

Just as the snakes were the source of suffering and death in the book of Numbers, so God and Mankind are the source of suffering and death in the book of John!

And Jesus is hinting, that like the venom of snakes, from the evil things of God and Man are to come wonderful and life-saving things.

Let’s look first at the most controversial aspect of the two, God as a source of evil:

  • It’s not blasphemy to posit that the ancient people of Israel thought of God as a source of suffering and death. In the passage from Numbers 21 itself, the snakes that are killing people are sent by God!
  • In John 3, Jesus’ death upon the cross is the moment where God is symbolically declaring that this understanding of God’s nature is to cease and be no more. Whether God was the source of suffering and death, or whether this was only a primitive attempt to rationalize bad things that happen to them, it does not matter: God is declaring an end to all of this understanding.
  • Like venom into medicine, God’s wrath becomes God’s mercy, God’s jealousy becomes God’s everlasting love, and God’s Law becomes God’s Grace through Jesus!

And now we turn to the more problematic aspect, Mankind as the source of evil:

  • We cannot deny the evil humans do to each other. From the smallest act of betrayal found in relationships, to the mass-murder of millions of our brothers and sisters in God, we humans are capable of incredible evil.
  • Like venom into medicine, Mankind’s greed becomes charity, selfish living becomes selfless living, revenge becomes forgiveness, and works righteousness becomes Grace through Jesus,!

In Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection is contained the first rudimentary reactions of the process of spiritual chemistry that will transform the venoms of our fallen human condition into the very cures. We simply need to look upon the “snake raised up in the desert” and we shall live!

In that snake is represented God and Man, and through Jesus’ blood atonement is made for both Mankind and God. Yes, both.

Modern Prescription Symbol

The Ancient Symbol for Christ

Whether God needed atonement, or our understanding of God needed atonement is up to you, the believer. Yet it cannot be denied that on that one good Friday 2000 years ago, atonement was made. That atonement was for God (or our understanding of him) and Mankind, and they were changed and redeemed in our hearts and lives like snake venom into medicine.

 

Trig Bundgaard About Trig Bundgaard

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Romans 5
"18. Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.
19. For just as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous."

Comments

  1. God is the source of everything. This includes evil (blasphemy, but then God created blasphemy as well). From evil comes good. The ultimate evil, the killing of God on the cross, resulted in the ultimate gift, salvation for all, no strings attached. Hell is being dragged, kicking and screaming, to salvation. They won’t know what hit them. Those with faith see it coming.

    • “Kicking and screaming to salvation.” I love it. And I know it’s an apt desctiption because I’ve felt God’s active love, or “refining fire” in my own life, in this lifetime. And I am being brought, kicking and screaming towards healing myself and those around me.

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