Mysteriously, poisonous serpents suddenly appeared all over the desert. They seemed to be hatching from the sand. Men picked up stones and rocks that were strewn along the ground and tried to crush as many serpents as possible, but it seemed that the snakes multiplied all the more and for every one that died, two more took its place.
Snakes were everywhere. They crawled into the tents and wedged themselves among the bedding. They crawled into the food supplies, into the wagons, into the water. Before the day was over, thousands of people were bitten and died, mown down as on the day of battle. Those who were left could not eat or sleep for fear of the serpents.
A Moment of Decision
The people began to realize that unless something was done quickly, they would all perish in the wilderness just as they had feared. They must find Moses. But what would he say? They had been so angry with him yesterday and had spoken all kinds of evil against him and and against the Lord. Would Moses help them or would he think they were getting what they deserved? Would the Lord forgive them, or had they provoked him to the point of unrelenting judgment? Would they, like their parents before them, perish in the wilderness and never see the promised land of their dreams?
As they watched their loved ones writhing with pain and the children that were the delight of their eyes slowly succumbing to the poison in certain death, they decided to go, confess their sin, and throw themselves upon the mercy of God.
“Please, Moses, we have sinned! We have spoken against the Lord and against you. Please, pray to the Lord for us and ask Him to take away the serpents.”
A Divine Cure
Moses, took what the people requested upon his heart and poured out his soul before God in prayer on their behalf. It was then that God told Moses to do a very strange and unusual thing. God didn’t take the serpents away, nor did he tell Moses how to get rid of them. Instead He showed Moses how to cure the people who had been bitten by the firey serpents sting.
“Make a fiery serpent,” God said, “And set it upon a pole and lift it up so that all the people can see it. And it shall come about that when the people look upon the firey serpent that every one who is bitten shall live.”
So Moses made a serpent of brass, put it upon a pole and lifted it high so that everyone could see it just as God had commanded him.
A Great Deliverance
From all over the camp men, women, and children drug their loved ones out from their tents to get a glimpse of the bronze serpent on the pole. A young mother holding her limp child in her arms who was almost completely engulfed in a poisoned induced coma, rushed out of her tent. With tears streaming down her cheeks she tried to get him to look at the bonze serpent that Moses has made. In a few minutes he will be dead. “Look darling, look! Don’t close your eyes, open them and look up!”
“Look at what, Mother?” the child whispers weakly.
“Look at that serpent on the pole! Only look and you shall live!”
Grabbing the child’s chin she turns his face toward the bronze serpent on the pole, pointing. “Open you eyes and look!”
Suddenly a look of surprise which quickly turns to joy breaks out across the child’s face. “Mother, I feel better! It’s gone. The poison is all gone. I’m well!”
Falling to her knees in deepest gratitude, the young mother wept as waves of joy poured upon her soul. “Thanks be to God!” she cried.
Rising from all over the camp joyful shouts rang out, “I’m healed!” “I’m healed! Praise God, I’m healed!
Gazing upon a Saving God
Over a thousand years later, Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews came to Jesus by night. Inquiring of where Jesus spent the evenings, Nicodemus found Him praying alone in a garden on the hillside. Here, thought Nicodemus, I can speak to Jesus privately without being harassed or being continually challenged by the Pharisees and the other religious leaders. With reverence and a deep humility, Nicodemus approached Him.
“I have watched you these past few months,” Nicodemus earnestly explained, as he sat with the gentle teacher beneath the star studded sky. “I know from the teaching of the Prophets that no man can do the miracles that you do unless God is with him.”
Jesus was pleased to hear such understanding words coming from such a religious man. “Surely here is a man that my Father is giving unto Me,” Jesus thought. As moonbeams cast an ethereal glow upon Jesus’ face and the stars sparkled like diamonds against a cloudless sky, Jesus and Nicodemous talked long into the night about the truths of the kingdom of God.
After much discussion, Jesus said to him, “Nicodemus, just as Moses in the wilderness lifted up the bronze image of a serpent on a pole, even so I must be lifted up upon a pole, so that anyone who believes in me will have eternal life. For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. There is no eternal doom awaiting those who trust him to save them. But those who don’t trust him have already been tried and condemned for not believing in the only Son of God.“1
The Gaze of the Soul
Salvation, the new-birth, all our hope of overcoming sin and self and the works of the flesh – all our hope for living a victorious Christian life in full fellowship with the Living Christ – all comes from gazing in adoration and worship upon a saving God.
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness and those who were sick looked and lived, even so Jesus explained that He must be lifted up so that whosoever would believe in Him should not perish but receive eternal life.
Through the authority of His own interpretation, Jesus likened the term look with the term believe. Looking is done with the eyes, believing is done with the heart. “Believing,” Tozer writes, “is directing the heart’s attention to Jesus. It is lifting the mind to behold the ‘Lamb of God’ and never ceasing that beholding for the rest of our lives.“2
As we behold Jesus in all of His glory, in His death and resurrection, “we are changed into the same image from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord.“3 Moses found this to be true. The Bible teaches us that because Moses spent so much time in God’s presence speaking with Him face to face, that the skin of His face shone with the glory of God.4
God attests that Moses was more humble than any one on the face of the earth. It was not his humility that gained God’s favor. It was rather the time Moses spent with God that made him humble. This beholding of God is the instant cure for every area in which we fall short of His glory and fail to reveal the Christ-nature in our daily lives. But this glory is revealed only to those who will look with spiritual eyes into the unseen things above.
As the Vapor that Rises Upward
We see an illustration of this principle in nature. As water evaporates from the ocean, the vapor begins to rise heavenward. When it leaves the earth it is full of impurities, however as it ascends it becomes more purified and refined. What did the vapor do? It did nothing. The purifying work took place as it was drawn into the heavens toward the sun.
The difference between man and the vapor is that while the vapor can only be passive, we can voluntarily choose to turn our hearts toward the Son of God. As we continue to turn away from the cares of this life and the desire for other things and instead turn our eyes inwardly to the Spirit of the Living Christ which abides within, the purifying and refining work will take place by the Spirit, and we will be changed into the likeness of the One we behold.5
If we would refuse to remain satisfied with our judicial possessions in Jesus but instead continue to turn the inward gaze of our soul unto the Lamb who is Himself the great Shepherd of our souls, until in actual experience we break through into His Presence and gaze upon His glory, then all our ill natured manifestations of self would simply burn away from our lives and we would experience peace, wholeness, and well-being just as surely as those snake bitten Israelites in the wilderness received healing as they looked on the brazen serpent upon the pole.
Under New Covenant privilege, we are told to come in and boldly approach His Holy Presence and His Throne of Grace. But everything about that approach is not so much that of a cocky confessor of judicial rights. It is rather the approach of a worshipper who comes “to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.“6 Inevitably those who are proud and feel they have need of nothing may indeed be religious and even be given to prayer, but they will not be among those who endeavor to approach His presence. Those who do not sense their weakness will not know what it is to come near.
Jesus taught that the Pharisee who came to the temple to pray listing all the religious duties he had performed was not really praying to God although perhaps he thought he was. Jesus said he “prayed with himself.“7 He was not a true worshipper. He came with the gaze of his soul focused not on the glory of God, but on his own self efforts. He had no sense of his need for God’s mercy, help, or strength. Consequently he received nothing.
The tax collector, however, realizing his need for God’s mercy and forgiveness, knelt in reverence and awe and focused the gaze of his soul upon a saving God. As a result went home justified. This principle remains a mystery to those who still seek to gain approval with God through their works.
The Power of the Flesh
Sadly, today, the majority of the church is living mainly in the power of human flesh, of will, energy and effort apart from the Spirit of God. No need is felt to behold the Lamb. Perhaps because in a world that believes that man is basically good, the church has become acceptant of that philosophy and has failed to give adequate instruction in the doctrine of man’s depravity. Being born again, the believer sometimes mistakenly thinks that he is now become well suited to do God’s will and to show forth godly character if he tries hard enough and puts his mind to it.
Evidence is readily available in the sparsely populated prayer meetings that most Christians desire for God to give us a little help while we do our best. No time to pause and daily worship. No need to cry out to Him in heart felt prayer. No need to daily wait in His Presence for Divine direction and enablement. As we begin our day presumption reminds us of our judicial possessions.
We have the mind of Christ, we have the wisdom of God, and yes, we were filled with the Holy Spirit many years ago. Surely our mind and thoughts are in tune with Him. We go to church twice a week and try to participate in as many of its activities as possible. So we rush out to our daily duties hoping that God will bless us as we go. And in all of that God never gets the one thing that He is seeking.
It was to the adulterous woman many years ago at Jacob’s well that Jesus revealed the Father’s desire. It was there that the woman asked Jesus a question that people have been asking ever since. Wanting to know the correct place to worship God she said, “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus answered, “Neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem shall you worship the Father. The true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers.“8
Then as well as now people have sought for the correct church to belong to so they might attend and worship God. Yet, Jesus explained once for all time that it was not an external place or a location that was important but that true worship was of the heart and in the spirit. And that means it can be done anywhere, anytime.
A majority of worship is just so much singing if the heart and spirit are not being drawn closer to God. A lot of preaching is just exposition of right opinions carried on in such a way as to leave the hearers devoid of true spiritual nourishment. It is not just truth that nourishes the soul but God. If the hearers don’t find a personal experience with God they are no better off for having heard the truth.
Starved for His Presence
A.W. Tozer observed in his day and to a great extent the truth of his observation remains:
“Current evangelicalism has laid the altar and divided the sacrifice into parts, but now seems satisfied to count the stones and rearrange the pieces with never a care that there is not a sign of fire upon the top of lofty Carmel. But God be thanked that there are a few who care. They are those who, while they love the altar and delight in the sacrifice, are yet unable to reconcile themselves to the continued absence of fire.
“They desire God above all. They are athirst to taste for themselves the “piercing sweetness” of the love of Christ about Whom all the holy prophets did write and the psalmists did sing. Too many seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives. They minister constantly to believers who feel within their breasts a longing which their teaching simply does not satisfy.“9
And the Church today has the air of Laodicea – neither cold nor hot. She has become rich and wealthy and has need of nothing. Yet from God’s perspective She is wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. Perhaps the church of the later half of twentieth century America will go down in history and the shallowest generation of all. Certainly, any perusal of the writings and diaries of saints from other ages makes this generation of Christians look like they are holding a candle in the light of the noon day sun.
But then the great saints of all ages have been those who loved God more than others did and realized the deep need for his mercy, power, and grace. Jesus’ message is the same today as it was to the church in Laodocia, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hears my voice and opens the door I will come into him and have fellowship with him and he with Me.“10
In fact, the blessings of the New Covenant cannot be experienced apart from an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ that is cultivated every day. As we began to turn the gaze of our soul away from the carnal things of life and focus them on the Lamb who dwells within we will find that God has magnetic attraction. His drawing power will become powerful and irresistible for as soon as anything turns toward its center, it will rush there very rapidly unless it is hindered, just as a stone when dropped rushes toward the earth from which it came.
Guyon writes, “Jesus Christ is the great magnet of your soul. If there were no mixture in your soul, the soul would instantly rush toward the all-powerful, irresistible God within to be lost in Him. But if you are loaded down with many material possessions – or anything else – this attraction is greatly hindered. Many Christians seize some part of this world or some part of the self with so tight a grip that they spend their whole lives making only a snail’s progress toward their Center.
Sometimes God strikes the burden violently from your hand. It is then that you realize just how very much you had been hindered and held back. Allow everything to drop. Withdraw your hands from self; withdraw your hands from every other person and all things. Of course, that is something of a sacrifice. It can even be called a crucifixion. But you will be amazed to find that there is only a very short space between your sacrifice and your resurrection!“11
Casting Aside the Sins of Self
Today self-confidence, self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love – all are self sins that live unrebuked at the very altar of God. Tozer observed, “Self can fight for the faith of the Reformers and preach eloquently the creed of salvation by grace and gain strength by its efforts. To tell all the truth, it seems actually to feed upon orthodoxy and is more at home in a Bible conference than in a tavern … Self is where God should be and is perilously close to the sin of Lucifer who said, ‘I will set my throne above the throne of God.’“12
Andrew Murray observed: “A man can be most diligent and make great sacrifices, and yet it is all in the power of human will. Ah, the great question for us to ask of God in self examination is that we may be shown whether our Christian life is lived more in the power of the flesh than in the power of the Holy Spirit.
“If you take the preaching throughout the church and ask why there is so much work and often so little result for eternity, why the Word has so little power to build up believers in holiness and in consecration -the answer will be: It is the absence of the power of the Holy Spirit. And why is this? There can be no other reason except that the flesh and human energy have taken the place of that the Holy Spirit out to have.
“A man cannot live one hour of a godly life unless by the power of the Holy Spirit. He may live a proper consistent life, an irreproachable life, a life of virtue and diligent service. But to live a life acceptable to God in the enjoyment of God’s salvation and God’s love, to live and walk in the power of the new life – he cannot do it unless he is guided by the Holy Spirit every day and hour.“13
As long as we feel that we want to work the Christian life without God’s help, as long as we want to make new resolutions and vow and try harder, and try to do better each time we fail, we will never know the life of rest and victory. But for those whom the Law has slain, who will fall down utterly helpless at the feet of Christ and cry out with Paul – “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” – and break through to gaze upon the Lamb of God, they too will exclaim with Paul, “I thank God Jesus Christ will!”
Delivered from the poison of the fallen nature – the dilemna described above by Paul in Romans chapter seven – this man or woman is on the way to the experience described in Romans chapter eight – to becoming a partaker of the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus! Soon this one will know the liberty that the Spirit brings and will see what the life transforming power Holy Spirit.
1 John 3:14-18.
2 A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, Christian Pub., Harrisburg, Pa., pp.89-90. 3 2 Corinthians 3:18. 4 Exodus 34:29-35
5 Mme. Guyon, Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ, Christian Books, Auburn Maine, pp.53-55 6 Hebrews 4:16
7 Luke 18:11 8 John 4:21-23 9 Tozer, p.8 10 Revelation 3:20
11 Guyon, p.56 12 Tozer, p.46
13 Andrew Murray, Absolute Surrender, Whitaker House, pp.92,94
Copyright © Bob and Rose Weiner 2007, All Rights Reserved