Minister's Letter

Poisonous snakes - March 11th, 2018

Dear Friends,

I have been reading today about poisonous snakes in the Middle East. A couple of years ago they had a real problem with them in Israel. They started showing up not just where you would expect them, in the Golan Heights or the Negev desert, but in industrial areas, cities and people’s back yards.

An expert gave a couple of really useful pieces of advice: Don’t reach out and pet them! [As if you might!] They could be one of the three deadly varieties: the black and yellow Israeli viper, the Black Adder or the Israeli mole viper. The expert suggested removing yourself from the situation. Personally, I would have been long gone before he had even finished his first gem of wisdom.

Now this might seem a bit random and I wouldn’t want to cause undue alarm to potential holiday makers to the Middle East, but in Biblical times snakes were a problem. They hid under bushes and rocks, just where you wanted to rest, and if you got bitten there was no antidote or serum. They once had a real problem with snakes in Moses’ time, and people were getting a bit panicky. God’s answer was a bit unusual: make a bronze snake, put it on a pole and if anyone who gets bitten looks at it they will be healed. It almost makes the expert’s advice sound as congenial as you can get. But this was God’s answer, and it worked.

The thing is Jesus once compared his being lifted up on a cross to the same way Moses lifted up the bronze snake. He implied that it would have a healing effect. We may not come across many snakes, but we do come across all kinds of poisonous situations and get bitten by one thing or another from time to time. And you can’t always remove yourself from those situations. That may be the moment to look on the cross.


John 3: 14-15

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.”

A prayer:  

Lord, it’s good to know you can be around when unwanted experiences turn up not just somewhere else but in our own back yard. When we get bitten, remind us to look at the cross. I don’t know how that heals, but in you Lord, we place our trust. Amen.

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