Live and Live … Or … Look and Live

Oh, friends, you do not want fairness. Justice is not something you desire. You do not want God to treat you as your sins deserve. In no way do you want your desired blessings to be based upon your own obedience. Friends, this sort of contractual arrangement is found in the Covenant of Works, and if this is your working-arrangement with God, it will only lead to holy wrath, unending discipline, just damnation, and eternal curse. No, instead, rest in Jesus Christ and give glory to God for his Covenant of Grace. In this non-working-arrangement, God vows to never give you what you deserve. Instead, he promises to always treat you in accordance with the merit and works of Jesus Christ. Do you understand the difference? Perhaps looking at Numbers 21:1-9 will be of some assistance:

When the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who lived in the Negeb, heard that Israel was coming by the way of Atharim, he fought against Israel, and took some of them captive. And Israel vowed a vow to the Lord and said, “If you will indeed give this people into my hand, then I will devote their cities to destruction.” And the Lord heeded the voice of Israel and gave over the Canaanites, and they devoted them and their cities to destruction. So the name of the place was called Hormah. From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way.  And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

The children of Israel were being greatly abused by the Canaanites in the Negeb, and they needed divine assistance. Therefore, they prayed to the Lord, and God granted them the military power needed to annihilate their abusive enemies. One more time, God showed  his unmatched affection for his Chosen People. It was time, again, for them to give praise and thanksgiving to Yahweh for his compassion and care.

However, in short order, Israel showed their true form — again. They did not approve of God’s water and food. They became impatient. They grumbled. They slandered God and spoke against his mediator. Then they stated their desire to be back in Egypt, for in their hearts, God’s provision was “worthless” and his mediator was not so sharp.

Therefore, on this day, the Lord allowed them to experience the just judgment they deserved. He treated them fairly and sent fiery serpents to bite, hurt, punish, kill, scare, and teach the rebel congregation. He would have his people learn, again, about his holy law, his high expectation, and his very hot wrath.

However, he would also teach them about his holy Gospel.

  • The Heavenly Father had a plan.
  • The mediator prayed.
  • The mediator worked the plan and worked for Israel.
  • The mediator called Israel to look at his work and believe.
  • Anyone trusting in the work of the mediator, they were saved and healed.

Friend, can you find yourself, your Judge, and your Savior in this story?

Despite that which God has done for you, there is not a day that goes by when you have fully kept his Law. All men are born with sinful hearts, and from their devilish hearts an almost infinite number of sins flow. You are no exception. You never have sufficient thanksgiving for God’s grace; your contentment level is never high enough. Instead of having gratitude, from your fleshly heart and mind comes doubts, questions, complaints, and gripes. On many days, you find yourself looking and lusting after pagan Egypt. And on your worst of days, audibly you state your evil thoughts regarding God and plan. Friend, this is the natural condition of every man, woman, boy, and girl; this is you.

God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The Divine Judge, he hates sin; he can’t stand it. It makes him nauseous, and he promises to justly damn the soul that sins and thoroughly remove the devilish one from his presence. Tragically, this is your natural condition and eternal situation. Yes, if you are treated in accordance with the working-agreement called the Covenant of Works, you will justly get only what you deserve — God’s holy, just, fair, and equitable wrath, and the curses to follow.

However, in accordance with the Covenant of Grace, God has determined to save, heal, and give many what they do not deserve. Is this you? Have you placed your confidence in the work of the Mediator — Jesus Christ? If this is the case, then though you have complained this week, failed to give God the praise and thanksgiving he deserves, doubted his compassion, and slandered his name, you will not get the justice, wrath, punishment, curse, and hell you deserve. Why? It is because …

  • The Heavenly Father has a plan.
  • The Mediator worked the plan and worked for you.
  • The Mediator calls you to look at his work and believe.
  • Anyone trusting in the work of the Mediator, they are saved and healed.

Therefore, my law-breaking friend, it is time for you to preach the Gospel to yourself again this morning. Do not diminish God’s Law; he is serious about his stated desires. And do not dumb-down God’s expectation; only perfection is acceptable to him. And do not deny your sin; numerous transgressions flow forth from your wicked flesh. But do not discount the Gospel performance of Jesus Christ. Because he is your Mediator, there is no justice, wrath, punishment, curse, and hell for you who deserve all of the above. All your demerit has been placed on him; he was bitten for you on Calvary’s cross. And all of his merit has been placed on your account. Ungrateful friend, you are not a Chosen Person living under the Covenant of Works. No, you are God’s beloved child living only under the Covenant of Grace. Therefore, confess, repent, look, live, and enjoy the benefits of being blessed because of the righteous work of Jesus Christ alone.

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