It may well be just me but have you ever uttered the phrase “Why does it have to be so complicated Lord? Why can’t you just deal with it and take the problem away?” We have uttered this prayer plenty of times in Hargreaves Towers but even more than usual as FOW1 has returned to University and is dealing with a hassle that is not of his making which, to my highly expert eye, God could be dealing with quite easily.
While this is going on, I am learning about the Children of Israel. I am becoming quite taken with the Children of Israel. They remind me of me. They are slow to learn, quick to whinge, lack vision, take a long time to get to where they need to be and try God’s patience on an almost minute by minute basis. I like them.
I’m reading the passage in Numbers 21 about the snake of fiery copper. I am with Indiana Jones on snakes. I am very suspicious about creatures who are sometimes shaped like the last thing they ate. Back to Numbers. Israel are travelling and on a detour. They become irritable and begin to complain to God. This behaviour fits in with their normal pattern but this time for what are probably entirely understandable reasons, God reacts.
“God sent poisonous snakes among the people; they bit them and many in Israel died.”
He’s not messing about here is he? Maybe something to consider next time I am thinking of forgetting to count my blessings?
Anyway..showing commendable if tardy wisdom, the Children of Israel apologise to God and ask Moses to pray for them to take the snakes away. And Moses prays, God listens, the snakes return to the places where snakes live and everyone lives happily until the children of Israel find something else to complain about (approximately twenty minutes later usually)
But no actually. God doesn’t take the snakes away. They are to continue living in the camp. Jumping out when you least expect them and generally annoying people by biting them until they die. What God does supply is an antidote. A way out.
“Make a snake and put it on a flagpole: Whoever is bitten and looks at it will live.”
The snakes are not leaving the building.
And you just know don’t you? Well I think I do. He doesn’t always take it away. Not so that your problems never existed. Sometimes, they stay with you and again and again you have to look to God to deal with things as they are occurring. I suppose as well that, as the Israelites learned to live with the snakes, it became a habit. Every time someone got a nasty surprise behind the woodshed they would automatically look at the copper snake as a matter of course. Hopefully, they also remembered the God who sent this miracle.
I’m thinking that this is something I need to building into me, and my life. God is not my magic fairy. He has told me what to do to live my life with any degree of contentment and achievement – I keep looking at him for help and healing. And what will be supplied will be sufficient for my needs at that time. God is willing and able to do things that I am not even able to visualise. But somehow, there is a balance. None of this means that all problems will be taken away. Because as we know life is hard. Indeed as Jesus never actually said
“I beg your pardon. I never promised you a Rose Garden.”
Apologies to Lynn Anderson and Jesus. Not necessarily in that order.