Everyone is searching for it and most people do not know what it is! Those who are searching for it do not know where to look and often look in all the wrong places. The ancient book of Ecclesiastes describes this search and how its main character looked for it vainly in religion, work, pleasure, sex, and even education. The quest for it is additionally hindered because most of those searching for it can not even describe what it looks like — yet, frustratingly, they have a sense that it is something very precious that they have now lost. This feeling is if they have a memory they can not recall. All that they are left with is this gnawing sense that it is now lost and they are now lost without it. What they are unaware of is that their thwarted search is a part of sinister scheme designed to keep them from ever recovering their lost memory and being reunited with it. Just like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth character, Gollum, their ever-present enemy has ensured that are befriended by several Gollum-like friends who continually assure them that nothing is missing, and there is no it.
But when they sleep at night they dream about it. In their dreams they find it and their sadness turns to happiness; their loneliness turns to the warm friendship and intimate love; their sense of guilt and shame turns to the joy of being forgiven and accepted; their nagging feeling of enslavement to ignorance turns to unparalleled freedom; their awareness of being unclean gives way to an overwhelming delight of being washed and clean. But then they awake and renew their quest to find it.
It might seem an odd thing to write about just two days before Christmas, but the story of God plaguing the Israelites with poisonous snakes and then commanding Moses to construct a bronze serpent and attach it to a cross-beamed pole has baffled even the best minds for centuries. Some people have regarded this story as yet another reason for them to reject God and the Bible and consider both to be nonsense. An ever-so-slightly-less-cynical approach that some, who seem to really want both God and the Bible to be true, have taken is to regard the story as a fictional myth with mysterious allegorical meaning. I think this is how Dr. Jordan Peterson recently interpretted it in his discussion with Mr. John Anderson on their Youtube discussion last week. The high profile psychologist Dr. Peterson seems to have been on an interesting spiritual journey of late and he is obviously delving into the Bible and coming up with what appear to be some roadblocks to his complete acceptance of the claims of Christ largely due to these obscure passages in the Bible such as this account in Number 21. “No one has ever been able to explain it to me!” he told Mr. Anderson. I wish he had asked me, because if he had, this is what I would have explained to him.
The early Christians were sensitive to the voice of God. Ananias, who prayed for the newly converted Saul of Tarsus, was told by the Spirit where to find Saul, what to say to him, and why it was important for him to do so (Acts 9:10-18). Sometimes followers of Christ are misled to believe that they need to “learn” how to hear the voice of God. There is no example of this need anywhere in Scripture. But there are, however, injunctions to seek the Lord (Deut. 4:29; 1Chron. 16:11; Ps. 34:10; 105:3-4; Isa. 51:1; 55:6; Matt. 6:33; 7:7).
It was John Calvin who wrote in his commentary on Ephesians that the reasons believers today do not experience the divinely supernatural, as it seems the early Christians did, was the lack of desire. This is what I now want to both remind you of and encourage you to do: seek God. Seek Him. Be open to Him. Pray that you might pray effectively. Ask God to confirm His Word in the hearts of those who need a supernatural encounter with God that might lead to their conversion. And then, be still (Ps. 46:10).
The world into which the Saviour of mankind entered as a baby was a very harsh place. Life was cheap. Might was right. The oppressed were abused and often mistreated by the Roman conquerors. Those expected to speak up for, and defend, the voiceless vulnerable — their religious leaders of the day — had become too easily corrupted in their pathetic attempts to win a crumb of their conqueror’s power. This corruption in the pursuit of financial gain and political leverage had blinded these supposed-to-be-shepherds to the true plight of those they should have served as guardians. Why on earth would God send His Son into our world at such a dark time?
The gospel offers hope and healing for those who have been violated — those who were once scared (for good reason), and who have been scarred by the hurt they have endured — have found redemption and a sanctuary in the sacred community of God’s redeemed.