by Andy Weaver
Readings: Psalm 128, Numbers 21:4-9, Hebrews 3:1-6
We tend to think of the desert as a hostile place, a wasteland. We are liable to think of it as devoid of life or diversity, if we do think of the flora and fauna we tend think of cacti and fanged snakes. When we venture out to the desert we prepare with plenty of water, sunglasses, and sunscreen. We are ready to retreat to an air-conditioned environment after a while.
The Israelites wandering for forty years in the desert did not have any of these advantages, and began to complain. And as they complained, the situation became more hostile. Enter the venomous snakes.
And so they dropped their complaining and prayed that the snakes would go away. While the snakes did not go away, they found life by way of the bronze snake that God told Moses to make. They found life in the desert.
There is life in the desert; it is not a wasteland after all. As I have learned, from one of the many groups I interact with in land conservation, there is a greater diversity of species in the area of the Malpai Borderlands (the Southeast corner of Arizona, near the borders of New Mexico and Mexico) than there is in Florida.
We all have times when we wander through a metaphorical desert in our lives. When life feels like a hostile wasteland and the only signs of life appear to be the snakes and the cacti. We can pray to God for guidance and to make the snakes go away. Similar to the experience of the Israelites, the snakes might not go away, and we still might be bitten by them. But where the Israelites had Moses’ bronze snake, we have something even more powerful – Jesus’ cross.
Holy God, we thank you for Jesus and gift of life given through his sacrifice on the cross. Remind us when we are trapped in the desert times of our lives to turn to prayer instead of complaining. And when the poisonous dangers attack us, remind us to turn to the cross for healing.