For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 (NIV)
Read: John 3:14-21
Consider: John 3:16 must be one of the best known verses in the Bible that speaks of God’s love for his creation. What we don’t tend to hear being quoted at the same time are the two immediately preceding verses which say: Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him (John 3:14-15). This is a reference to an incident recorded in Numbers 21:4-9 where God sent a plague of snakes to punish the Israelites. God also provided the means of escape in the form of a bronze snake that was raised in the Israelite camp and anyone who had been bitten by a snake could look on it and be saved. Can you see that even in the time of Moses, God provided a foreshadow of what was to come later in Christ. Christ was to be lifted up on the cross to provide the means of escape from the penalty of sin (God’s righteous judgement) to all who look to him as their Saviour.
A later incident involving Hezekiah (Hoshea), king of Judah, reveals how the people of Israel revered the bronze snake because of its association with Moses. In 2 Kings 18:4 we read: He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan). By worshipping the bronze snake the Israelites had turned something good into something evil.
I suppose this should make us think about how the true meaning of Christmas, as showing God’s love to the world, has been replaced by a commercialised event that is so far removed from where it started in a stable in Bethlehem. Behind all the glitz and sparkle of the commercial Christmas is a demonstration of God’s love that offers salvation and eternal life to anyone who believes in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.
Pray: Father, we thank you that you have provided the means of escape from the bondage of sin. While the world sees Christmas as a commercial event, may we see your love for the world in every aspect of our celebrations. Amen
Next: #21. Advent Reflections – God’s covenant promises