Moses and the bronze serpent (John 3:14-15)

Isn’t it funny how you can read a passage of Scripture 5 times, 50 times, 500 times, and still not realise what it is talking about? That’s what Jesus rebuked Nicodemus about in John 3:10. And it is what I’ve experienced the many times I’ve read John chapter 3. It probably won’t be the last time either, so I can’t be too critical of Nicodemus.

Jesus had been explaining why Nicodemus – and all of us – need to be born again [see John 3:1-13]. And He was adamant that this new birth was entirely a work of God by the Holy Spirit, not something any of us are able to do for ourselves.

Then Jesus inserts these words that I’ve never before connected with the rest of the passage; “… as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” [John 3:14-15].

As it turns out, they are critically important words for us to understand our part in the work of new birth, the work that is done entirely by God. Confused? Let’s see if we can shed some light on it. Continue reading

Ebenezer Moments

There is a line in a song we sing occasionally at church which goes, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer.” It’s part of a lovely old hymn called “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” written by Robert Robinson around 1757.

But it’s a lyric that probably means little to many modern Christians. The word Ebenezer only occurs three times in the Bible, all in the same story of a series of battles between the Israelites and the Philistines. And this story contains an important message for us today.

We had the privilege of having – at short notice – Tim Petersen with us yesterday. Tim planted and leads a church called Cityhill in Amanzimtoti, Sth Africa. He shared with us a message he entitled “Ebenezer Moments.”

The story – found in 1Sam 4:1-7:14 – begins with the slaughter of 4,000 Israelite soldier in battle. Intriguingly, the Israelites ask, “Why has the Lord defeated us today?” [1Sam 4:3].They conclude that the reason for their defeat was because the Ark of the Covenant [see footnote] was not with them.

So, with much rejoicing and excitement, they bring the Ark of the Covenant up with them to battle, striking fear into the hearts of the Philistines [see 1Sam 4:5-8].

This time though, they lose 30,000 soldiers, and the Ark of the Covenant is captured by the Philistines. What went wrong? Continue reading