Numbers 21: 5-9
Hebrews 2: 8 (from “But now”) – 10
2 Corinthians 3: 18
I feel confirmed a little, dear brethren, in reading these verses in Numbers having in mind the hymn we have just sung,
And by the daily manna fed (Hymn 180).
This first scripture is representative of what is general amongst men, perhaps even amongst God’s people. They say they loathe this light bread. God had brought them out of slavery in Egypt and He had sustained them almost forty years to this point. He had fed them and He had watered them and He had protected them, but they say, “our soul loathes this light bread”. Earlier in Numbers it speaks about what they did with the manna. They “gathered it, and ground it with hand-mills, or beat it in mortars, and boiled it in pots, and made cakes of it”, and yet the testimony is that “the taste of it was as the taste of oil-cakes. And when the dew fell ... the manna fell upon it”, Num 11: 8, 9. I suppose it shows what we are according to what is natural. They had tried every avenue to make it more attractive to them, more palatable, but their true condition comes out in these verses that we have read, “there is no bread, and no water, and our soul loathes this light bread”. How God must have felt that.
In fact, the history of the Old Testament is in great measure an expression of how wilful and wayward God’s people were, but God is working with them nevertheless. He does not give them up. God does not give His people up and we can rejoice in that - for such we were - and God goes on and works that there might be something secured out of what is apparently so hostile to His gracious dealings. We have Moses here, and he intercedes and prays for the people; and God gives him directions that this serpent should be lifted up that those that looked upon it should live. How expressive the fulfilment of this is in this present dispensation. The verses we have read later are indicative of this, “if a serpent had bitten any man, and he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived”. The brethren will well know that it betokens the incoming of Christ and the sacrifice that was His that there might be salvation secured for a lost race. If anyone beheld the serpent he lived, and the note says, ’looked intently at’. It was not a casual glance. There would no doubt be fear and anticipation involved in it if they had been bitten, the serpent’s bite. Think of the enemy’s activities. Right from the outset of creation he was there and spoiled what had been put there in the garden for God’s pleasure, Adam and Eve; and here it is expressed in this nation which had received so much from God, so much blessing. There was this salvation for them if they beheld the serpent of brass.
Well, it is a type of the Lord Jesus as we know, and my purpose in reading Hebrews 2 is to bring in the blessedness of the One who came here. As we read in Philippians, He made Himself of no account, and He suffered and died, “becoming obedient even unto death, and that the death of the cross”, Phil 2: 8. The cross is the matter around which everything for God centres, the Lord Jesus lifted up, and the fulfilment of that type in Numbers that those who look intently upon it live. We see the Saviour giving Himself a ransom for many, His shed blood the cleansing power by which life can be assured to us. What a wonderful matter that is to contemplate: not a casual look. We think of the malefactor on the cross. He was suffering alongside the Lord. He must have taken good account of the One who was in the middle. He was able to render a testimony to Him as recognising what was there in the perfection of that holy One. We read here that “we see Jesus, who was made some little inferior to angels on account of the suffering of death”. What a matter that is to contemplate that He was made some little inferior to angels on account of the suffering of death. That One who suffered and died, who was buried but who was raised, Firstborn from among the dead, that One who at that point of time was “made some little inferior to angels” - creatures - “on account of the suffering of death”. But what we read here is that He is “crowned with glory and honour”. He has tasted death for every thing, every matter that entered into the arrangements of men, everything that entered into the need of man, He tasted death for it and, as we sang in our hymn, His leading ’brought us nigh to God’. “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory to make perfect the leader of their salvation through sufferings”. What sufferings they were, but what glory is His. If we read again in Philippians, God has “granted him a name, that which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow”, chap 2: 9-10. Think of the salvation that has been secured in bowing the knee to the Lord Jesus, bowing the knee to the One who has taken such a way to secure us.
In the scripture in Corinthians, “we all, looking on the glory of the Lord, with unveiled face, are transformed”. I was just thinking of the intent look which we read of in Numbers and the transforming effect of looking on the glory of the Lord. His glory is no longer hidden. His glory was hidden when He was here. There were those who saw it, of course, and appreciated His person. There were the three disciples who were initiated into that scene on the mountain where Christ is transformed before them, and they saw that which would remain with them all their lives, and which has been secured and recorded for us, as Peter writes of it, “the excellent glory”. 2 Peter 1: 17. As we contemplate the glory of the Lord Jesus “with unveiled face”, and what He has secured for God and for us, we understand God has come out. Reference was made as to that recently that the veil of the temple was rent. God is able to come out and meet man because the ransom had been paid. As to sin, God had the ransom before Him in the giving of Christ, the shedding of His blood. “When I see the blood” (Ex 12: 13); think of how God esteemed that sacrifice and how blessed indeed it was. It says, “we ...are transformed according to the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Lord the Spirit”. Think of that.
We can only think or speak of it in a very measured way, I feel for myself, but what transformation there is in relation to all that we have to meet in this world in its activities. We are transformed from that. Despite the attractions and the blandishments that Satan would use, there is a transformation so that there are features which can be taken account of which are Christ-like. In all our relationships amongst the people of God, we are in fellowship together. There is a company being formed and prepared for that scene of glory, and in our relationships, our household relationships, and in the matters that we have to address, all are held in relation to what is here for God and for the pleasure of our Lord Jesus. So our chief joy should be in relation to occasions such as this when we can be together. Thanks was given that we can be together in this way, the saints set together where we can enjoy one another’s company and where the things of this world no longer hold us. What untold blessings are available to us! May we never tire of what God has furnished for our encouragement and for our life. This is our life, we may say, life amongst the saints, life in relation to God and His interests. May we be encouraged to go on and to find our satisfaction in what God has allotted to us, otherwise we might be found as the people of old who tried to adorn it, and adapt it to their natural instincts, but it would depend on this looking intently, looking on the glory of the Lord Jesus and being transformed. I think transported can be used for that word, “according to the same image from glory to glory”.
Well, may these few words be for our encouragement. In the Name of the Lord Jesus.
16th March 2010