Sermons & Sunday Schools

God’s Way of Salvation

In this sermon, Pastor Joseph Babij looks at Israel’s experience with the bronze serpent in the wilderness and the analogy of that experience to Jesus Christ and salvation. Specifically, Pastor Babij considers four things sinners must see in order to look, be saved, and live:

1. Your Condition (vv. 4-5)
2. The Judgement Your Sin against God Brings (v. 6)
3. Your Inability to Save Yourself (v. 6)
4. God’s Remedy (vv. 7-9)

Full Transcript:

Good morning everyone, we are coming to you this morning in this unusual way but I guess after being in this for about eight or nine month and we are trying to navigate the waters as best as possible, and I know you are doing the same thing. I pray that you would grab your Bibles and look with me in the Old Testament in Numbers 21. Please turn there now.

We’re going to look in this passage about God’s way of salvation. It teaches those who don’t know the Lord the steps in becoming a believer. It is also a passage of Scripture that reveals how God sanctifies His people. The Lord will not let us go on in sin without stepping in and providing something to show us our sin and bring it to the surface. We can acknowledge it, turn from it, repent of it, and confess it to the Lord and continue on to walk in faith.

We see in our passage Israel’s journey from Sinai to the plains of Moab. It’s a lesson concerning sin and grace and is a story of repeated sin and resulting failure until the Lord in His grace caused the serpent to be lifted up which brought blessing and victory on the plains of Moab among the people. This passage is a signpost that reads this is the way of salvation if you will obey the Lord by looking to His remedy to save. In that way you will live, know forgiveness, and know life. If you don’t want to go the Lord’s way, you will die in your sin.

Now look at Numbers 21:1-3:

When the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who lived in the Negev, heard that Israel was coming by the way of Atharim, then he fought against Israel and took some of them captive. So Israel made a vow to the Lord and said, “If You will indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.” The Lord heard the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites; then they utterly destroyed them and their cities. Thus the name of the place was called Hormah.

I read this passage in order to show you that the Lord heard the prayers offered up to Him by His people. He answered their request. Yet in the people’s hearts, there was rebellion against the Lord and their leaders. There was sin stewing in the hearts of the people for a long long time. Sin that was not acknowledged by the people, who acted as if their words and actions were justified. The people did not see their sinful condition nor the judgment that sin brings. Nor did they see their inability to deliver themselves from the consequences without God’s deliverance. Now this Lord’s day, I really would like you to take seriously and consider four things that sinners must see before they can be saved.

The first thing a sinner must see before they can look, be saved, and live, must see their condition. If you notice the condition of the people found in Numbers 21:4-5, it says this:

Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey. The people spoke against God and 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 miserable food.”

Now you see that the people here had to go around the land of Edom, which was a shortcut to the Promise Land. So they are at the end of the journey in the wilderness and they can pretty much think about the good food they are going to have or the good lands they are going to cultivate. They have this desire to want to be there already in the land flowing with milk and honey. The problem was they weren’t ready for the land because they still had sin in their hearts and still didn’t learn their lessons in the Old Testament. They had to go around Edom, because the King of Edom wouldn’t let them through.

They become impatient because of the journey, and they were tired. They were finding themselves so near the promised land but were not entering it. The route they were taking was the worst part of the desert because it was a harsh path. It presented the people with many unknown difficulties which only produced in the people’s hearts impatience. Simmering impatience in their hearts lashed out in a gross burst of murmuring and questioning Moses and God’s wisdom.

They really would rather have been in slavery with better food than to trust God’s goodness. they attributed evil intent to God and His leaders. This shows what is going on in their hearts. They question God in verse 5 asking why He brought them up to die in the wilderness. Murmuring is an outward sign of hypocrisy and unthankfulness in the heart. They question the wisdom of God and the proven goodness of the Lord.

The statement they relate back to Moses and to the Lord in verse 5 was one of disgust. They loathed the miserable food, the manna that came down from Heaven. They were sick of the honey wafer and it wasn’t what they craved and knew of in Egypt. They were looking back to Egypt and it’s like looking back to the world or the past life that you had before Christ.

Grumbling and murmuring were the surface sins. But the heart sin was unbelief. The Lord was very displeased with them and these accusations against Him that He provided them with no food or water is just simply untrue because God not only provided them with that all through their journey, but God made their shoes and clothing especially durable to not wear out.

God had shown His love by providing a way to be accepted – the sacrificial system- in the wilderness. By faith as evidenced by the blood sacrifice, they could be atoned for their sin and have them forgiven and covered for a year. Instead of thanking the Lord, they accuse Him of neglect. They ignore God’s law by telling lies and dishonoring His Name. So to see your sin and condition is the first step to looking, being saved, and to living.

When a sinner truly sees their condition before God, it means they realize they have broken God’s law and that they see sin as a terrible thing. It also means that they have sinned against their Creator. It is like taking up arms against the Almighty when we sin. The blindness of sin does’t allow us to see beyond this life and to see the hope they could have in Christ and the eternal life they could have with a good God who provides for our spiritual and eternal needs. Sin even blinds people to the consequences of breaking God’s law because they think that sin is not a big thing.

Now the New Testament informs us that this event that we see in Numbers warns present day Christians not to mimic the sins of the Old Testament which were grumbling and murmuring and showed their unbelief. If you turn to 1 Corinthians 10, it shows us that if you think this message was just for the people back then, you would be incorrect. The message in the Old Testament is just as relevant to us today as it was then, and even more so. It says this in 1 Corinthians 10:5-11:

Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

These Scriptures are for us today and teaches us that to break God’s laws has consequences. Just as trying to defy the law of gravity results in fractured bones and even death, the violation of God’s law brings about certain consequences.

Now look with me back at Numbers and notice the ramifications of violating the standards of God and the violations that come when we commit sins like grumbling. You may be in a circumstance right now that you are acting out and not satisfied where you are at and you wish you had something better. May you are posting about it on Facebook and complaining. But what you are doing before God is showing the sin in your heart that God will deal with. This is not only to bring someone to salvation but also to sanctify us.

Look at Numbers 21:6, which tells us what sinners must see so that we can look, be saved, and live. Until you see the judgment your sins against God brings, you will not look, be saved, and live. This is what the verse says:

The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.

Now that seems very severe judgment upon the sin of grumbling but it was more than that because they were doing that for many years in the wilderness against Moses and God. Notice in our passage who sent the serpents among the people. The Lord Himself did it! This shows the measure the Lord will take to bring people to see the consequences of violating God’s law and the consequences of sin. God sent poisonous snakes among them in judgment. The desert areas in the middle east are well known for several types of poisonous vipers: the hornet viper and the carpet viper are the most dreaded in that area of the world. But the point is that these vipers produced a fiery sting to their bite which can be caused by venom, causing a burning sensation at the bite.

Of course that burning sensation of sin is a sting to us. The severe burning sensation caused by the venom fits here and has the most direct possible connection to the New Testament and this is most likely what the Apostle Paul referenced in 1 Corinthians 15 where he said in that resurrection chapter, “O death where is your victory, O death where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. So the consequences of the people sinning was death so to see that there are consequences to all you sin is the second step of looking of being saved and of living for God. This brings me to a third thing that all sinners must see before they can look, be saved, and live. This is until you see your inability to save yourself from your dreadful condition and God’s judgment, you will not look, be saved, and live. In Numbers 21:6 it says:

The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.

The people will try to save themselves. The venom will be the cause of death and sin is what causes death and no one has the ability to rescue themselves from the consequences. In the very first book of the Bible, it says sin would lead to death. Physical sin is the separation of a man’s spirit from his body. Spiritually and relationally, it’s separation of man’s spirit from God and eternal death is separation of man’s spirit from God forever called in the book of Revelation the second death. The Word of God says all over the place that just as through one man sin came into the world and death through sin, so death spread to all men because all have sinned and the wages of sin is death.

So if you notice that the Scriptures tells us in Numbers 21:6 that not all the people die. The ones who do not die soberly really took into immediate consideration God’s only remedy to be delivered from the consequences from their personal sin. God always provides a way so sin can be forgiven and acknowledged. He always provides a way out. So you see that you cannot save yourself from the consequences of all your sin, which is the third step.

This leads me to a fourth thing, that all sinners must consider before look, be saved, and live. Until you look to God’s remedy that brings deliverance and restoration, you will not be saved and live. The first indication that a sinner is looking to God to be saved is repentance. Look at what it says in Numbers 21:7:

So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people.

If you notice there what you see here is an acknowledgement of sin and also calling sin what it is: an offense to God and His work and the ministers who work on His behalf. So the purpose of God’s judgment is to bring about a change of mind and heart and a desire to turn from that sin and confess it to the Lord which pleases God. God wants to hear confession of our sins. That first indication is that we would repent which is a heartfelt sorrow for sin. It is a renouncing of it and a sincere commitment to forsake it and to walk in obedience to God. See we must genuinely renounce our sin and commit to forsake it in our lives. That’s what the people did here.

This does not mean that you have to first clean up your life before coming to receive God’s remedy. You can’t say you’re not ready to come because you have this or that going on in your life. When we turn to God for salvation from sin, one is really simultaneously turning from the sins they are asking God to save them from. In this case, it was grumbling, impatience, and hypocrisy and unbelief, not believing God would finish what He started. He promised all those forty years ago to bring them into the land.

God’s promises will definitely come to pass but we have to wait for His timing but the Israelites did not want to wait for it and wanted it now even though they still had sin in their hearts and were grumbling against God. Therefore, they had to repent of that first.

A second indication that a person comes to look to God’s remedy, is that they look to God’s intercessor for deliverance. Look at Numbers 21:7:

So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people.

They had sinned so they asked God through Moses to deliver them. This meant that they needed to trust the way that God would deliver. So God was going to give the children of Israel the chance to express their faith in the Lord and take Him at His Word to follow His direction and His guidance. Today, you must ask God through Christ who is the Intercessor and Mediator to deliver you from your sins and consequences of condemnation. It says in 1 Timothy 2:5:

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

You can’t take Jesus out of the equation. People talk about God in a generic way but you can’t go to the Father unless you go through the Son. In Acts it says we need repentance towards the Father and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s always the way it is, and you can’t just go to God the Father without the Mediator. In this case the mediator was Moses who was a type of Christ.

A third indication that one is looking to God for the remedy is to do so in faith. Moses was told to make a serpent in bronze that was elevated on a pole that might be seen by all corners of the camp. Any bitten Israelite had to just look to the serpent and be healed and saved from death and the consequences of their sins. It says in Numbers 21:8-9:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.” And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.

Looking is synonymous with faith, not trusting in yourself or any system, but looking to Christ. To see that the only way to be saved is to look to Christ, God’s only remedy to save lost sinners is the fourth step to being saved and living. The scenario of unbelief may go something like this: “Moses the servant of God may be losing it. He is one of those holy prophets and is kind of crazy. If he thinks that looking at a bizarre snake on a pole is going to heal a venomous bite, then I don’t believe it. It goes against all conventional wisdom of medicine and science and is not logical.” Such a person would have died because of a snake bite but also because they did not believe God.

People tell me that they think the Bible is a fairy tale because the gospel sometimes sounds like one. And yet, the Word of God tells us in Numbers 21:9:

When he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.

So when an Israelite was bitten, all he had to do was turn and look at the bronze serpent and be healed and live. So why is it that people hate, despite, and reject the gospel? Because it is so different in every way from what people would expect God to do. He does the exact opposite often of what we think He should be doing. People do not understand or like the way God works because it doesn’t conform to their religious systems.

This particular method of curing was designed for salvation to show that it was the efficacy of God’s power and grace, not the effect of nature or man that brought about the cure. Secondly, that it might be a type of the power of faith in God in Christ to heal all who look to Him because of their sin. That brings me to the passage of Scripture that was read this morning in the New Testament. In Numbers we have what we call a type, that shadows, forecasts, or represents beforehand something that will happen later on, which is called an antitype.

Types take different forms but the object was always to get the picture to people of what was going to happen in the future. God was preparing the children of Israel for the amazing deliverance that was going to be provided for those who looked when God sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world. So when people looked at the serpent lifted up on the pole, you get the view ahead of time of what the Lord would do.

The people were bitten because of their sins and were complaining and rebellious towards God. This serpent on a pole had a no power to heal, only God did. But when a person fixed their eyes on the serpent, they were restored to health. In the same way, the antitype who does have the power to give spiritual life to the one who looks and trusts is lifted up. So faith in God’s way of salvation is the way of looking to God.

When you come across a passage of Scripture in the New Testament which points to the fulfillment, the antitype is how we see Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. In the New Testament in John 3:14-15 it says:

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

Now here is this man Nicodemus is a teacher of Israel and he didn’t come to the place where he realized that all he had to do was look and he could be saved. If you notice in John 3, the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus ends when Jesus says that the Son of Man must be lifted up, he immediately connected what Jesus said to the Old Testament Scriptures in Numbers and he knew right then that looking was faith. He believed in Jesus and became born again at that point.

So can you honestly say you have looked to Christ alone for eternal life or are you still looking to yourself or something or someone else? Maybe you’re still working on yourself and are trying to be good. I would like to ask you again today, has this wonderful person of Jesus Christ be born into your hearts today. It says in John 3:3:

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Christ who says who will go in and not go into the Kingdom, has emphatically said to us that unless you have been born anew from above, you cannot enter. The invitation is to look to God for the remedy, repent of your sin of unbelief, and look to the Intercessor Jesus Christ for deliverance who is God’s only remedy for sinners. He was lifted up on the cross and died in the place of sinners, paying for sin and defeating it. Thus He satisfied God’s justice and defeated death and Satan. Then He rose from the dead so you can live.

So today is the day to look to Christ to be born again. Don’t wait til the end to say to yourself, which I’ve heard before, that you will wait to the point of death to believe. Don’t be so foolish that you can out maneuver the fox of death. It may be too late to hope for tomorrow, already in hell and sealed up forever.

See, death freezes you to be as you were on earth for all eternity. The grand question to ask and honestly answer is if you’re born again and lifted up on the cross for your sake? Are you looking to Jesus Christ? If you do that, you must admit you are a sinner under God’s just penalty and turn from your sin to Him for forgiveness.

You must understand your inability to save yourself because there is nothing you can do to earn or merit your salvation. You need to look and see that there is no other remedy but in Jesus Christ. Of course, then you need to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Ask Jesus to save you from sins’ condemnation. He is the only one that can do that and once you do that, then you need to follow Christ in loving obedience everyday.

The Israelites and often Christians have to learn that lesson in sanctification. We cannot continue in sin while following the Lord. A Biblical Christian is not one that just knows they are a sinner with a bad record and heart, that God’s provision for sins is in Christ and his cross, and that they must repent and look to Christ. Can you make the claim this morning to be a Christian that sticks to the Bible and does your life manifest the fruit of repentance and faith?

Do you possess a life of attachment, obedience, and confession of Christ on a regular basis? Is your behavior marked by adherence of the ways of the Lord and are you being conformed to the image of Christ and it shows in your life. We know it won’t be perfectly, but the evidence points that this is surely the direction of your life.

So I ask you again on this Lord’s Day, are you born again? Is Jesus born in your hearts today. I would urge you to humble yourself, acknowledge your sin and look at Jesus the Savior and invite Him to come and be born in you to cleanse, forgive, and transform you. I beg you to do that today.

If you know Christ, I pray that you would not let your sin go on and on and on, even regarding these sins of complaining in the heart. Because if you continue, it shows that you don’t really believe what God has for you in your life. I pray that you would look at your life in that way and as you do, that you would surely continue to walk with the Lord. If you don’t know Christ today, then confess today. Ask Christ to save you and turn from your sins today. Let us know if you have done that!

Let’s pray now. Oh God of our deliverance, I come before you this Lord’s day on behalf of your people lifting up praise for the bitter agony and the cruel death you willfully and patiently accomplish in the place of all who believe in You and turn from their sins and follow You. Thank You Lord Jesus for Your precious blood that was shed to wash away the sins of Your people. After Your payment for our debt that we could never have paid, You went to the grave which could never hold you. Your power burst the bands of death and trampled down the power of darkness triumphing over sin, Satan, and death. In doing that you lifted Your people out of their sin.

Thank You that today all the people who come to You can rejoice in the great fact that Christ is the way of salvation. Those Lord that are believers can also rejoice in the fact that when we do sin, You and the power of the cross is still available to us every single day and that as we come and confess it, You are still faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all our unrighteousness.

I pray that today as a congregation, we would continually give up praise and worship to You because of the great things You have done and even the things You have yet to do in our lives. Let us be sensitive to our spirit and sin so that each day we would grow more and more and bear more fruit in our Christian walks. We thank You Lord and for all that You have done and will do and I pray in Christ’s Name, Amen.