Has your pastor ever preached a sermon that made you pull your feet up onto the pew? Mine did this past Sunday!
He preached on snakes.
It was from Numbers 21, where God sent a plague of fiery serpents (yes, fiery, because regular snakes apparently weren't punishment enough!) on the whiny, impatient, moody Israelites.
(note to self - the Bible coaxes us to give with a joyful heart, and to do everything without complaining. Well, this story definitely encourages such action ::wink::)
The Israelites were griping about their conditions and their wilderness wandering, and their steady diet of manna manna manna, and God finally heard enough. (His patience does/can eventually run out, folks. He's loving and generous but He is also jealous and justice.)
So here come the serpents or snakes, everywhere. People were being bit and dying off one by one, all day every day. Finally, the people realized they'd had it pretty good before. They came to Moses begging him to pray to God on their behalf. They humbled themselves, realized their sin, and repented. They asked for deliverance. Moses prayed as they requested, and God told Moses to fashion a bronze serpent atop a pole. Anyone who was bit and then looked at that serpent in faith would be healed, and wouldn't die.
Our pastor shared an amazing analogy on how that represented the salvation story. Anyone (ANYONE!) who looks on Jesus in faith will not perish but have everlasting life. Amen!
But during that Sunday morning, while I contemplated pulling my knees up under me (even though I was in a dress) and kept one ear open for snake-like scuffling under the pews, God revealed to me a different analogy.
God didn't remove the problem from the Israelites. He provided a cure.
THEY STILL GOT BIT.
I feel this is important for us to see. God didn't blink or snap His holy fingers and remove the problem. The snakes were still there, folks. He could have, but He didn't. He chose to provide the solution instead. Because you know what? If the snakes vanished as quickly as they appeared, the Israelites (God love them, but they seem to have a habit of doing this) would have ventured back into their sinful ways pretty soon after. (and don't we all!)
Instead, God left the problem but gave them a cure. He provided a way for them to live and work through it.
And He does that with us. He did it through sin and Jesus. He didn't remove sin from the world, He gave us a solution to it. Salvation via faith in Jesus and His sacrifice for us on the cross.
And sometimes, even in the daily stuff, He doesn't remove the disease or the problem or the troublesome person or the terrible job from our lives. He provides in a different way.
When my husband was laid off the fire station for a solid year, I begged. I cried out. I asked for deliverance from the serpents, aka, the red numbers in my checkbook. God didn't provide a full time, desirable position right away. He didn't miraculously shove 30 grand in our bank account.
But He provided, and in ways so tangible and so clearly from Him, He got a lot more glory from it all and I got a lot more faith.
Sort of like the Israelites. They still had to dodge snakes. They still had to check the bushes before they pottied and check their tents before they went to bed. The threat wasn't gone. But the solution was readily available. They were kept in a position of humility, because they needed it.
And don't we all?