Lifted Up

Lifted Up

Scripture selection: Numbers 21.6

The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

There is a curious story about some desert snakes that has great spiritual meaning if you think about it.

As they made their way along the people stubbornly persisted in their complaining and grumbling against God.  According to the scripture, this resulted in a severe punishment – via some very nasty snakes.

When Moses, as he often did, intervened for the rebellious – and now remorseful and suffering people – God told him what to do.  He was to create a bronze serpent on a pole.  Then he was to lift this pole up so that the people could view the image of sin and death.  In doing so, they would be saved.

Seen from a Christian standpoint – the similarity to Christ’s story is striking.

Lifted up, the perfect Savior – who had taken sin upon himself and who came to take away the sin of the world, did just that.

Much has been said, and many debates held, as to how a “loving” God could punish His people with terrible vipers, only to then save them via this strange ritual involving a bronze serpent.

Still, the symbolism is very powerful.

We, who so often need saving from our own sinfulness, are given the opportunity to be saved from it by literally viewing it, then calling out for God’s salvation.

I don’t like snakes.  But I am very moved by this powerful, symbolic story of God’s salvation by one lifted up on a cross of God’s own design.

How about you?

By Paul Simrell

The Reverend Paul W. Simrell has served for over thirty years in a variety of congregational and institutional settings. He is a recognized minister with standing in the Virginia region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and is nationally endorsed by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for specialized ministry in both pastoral counseling and chaplaincy. Ordained in 1982, he has served congregations in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and Virginia. He currently serves as the pastor of Elpis Christian Church, a small, historic congregation located just a few miles west of Richmond, Virginia. “Elpis” is the Greek word for “expectant hope.” He is a graduate of the University of Florida and Lexington Theological Seminary and has done advanced clinical training in chaplaincy and pastoral counseling at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, Children’s Medical Center and Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas and the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care in Richmond, Virginia. He is a Certified Pastoral Counselor, an ACPE Practitioner, a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors, and a member of Spiritual Directors International. He is a Certified Facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich relationship assessment and skills-building program and served as a volunteer chaplain for over twenty years with the CJW Medical Center campuses in Richmond, Virginia. His avocational interests include playing the piano and drawing. He is very happily married to his wife Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell, a free-lance writer, who is also a Certified Facilitator for the Prepare-Enrich program. Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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