Lord Jesus, please take (insert circumstance here) from me…
Lord Jesus, please fix (insert problem here)…
I know this prayer well; I’ve said it all too frequently. I’m sure most of you have as well.
When we find ourselves in a situation – often of our own creation – our response is to ask God to fix it, to take it away.
See the thing is, we don’t like pain. Shocker, I know, but we don’t like experiencing those difficult times; we just want them to go away.
We are not alone in this: the Israelites prayed the same prayer. When they sin by speaking against God, they are not happy with the consequences, and they ask God to take those consequences away.
From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against 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 worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. – Numbers 21:4-9
“Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents.”
Nobody likes being bit by poisonous snakes. Nobody likes snakes.
The Israelites want the snakes gone.
But God doesn’t take the snakes away.
God doesn’t remove the problem.
I think this is the key here, and is what really impacted me in this reading of the story: God does not change their circumstances, he doesn’t remove the consequences of their actions.
God leaves the snakes where they are.
Yet even though God doesn’t remove the problem, he provides a way through it: if anyone is bitten, they can look upon the bronze serpent and live.
You’ll still get bitten, but you will live.
I know this is something that is so true in our lives: even though God doesn’t always take away the problems or remove the circumstances, He is faithful to provide a way through. Whether it’s peace in the midst of the storm, knowing God is with you; people God has placed in your life to provide support and encouragement; or knowledge of the hope we have in Christ, God will provide a way through.
That doesn’t mean it will be easy. God’s going to give you more than you can handle on your own, so you learn to rely on him. But in his strength, we can overcome.
When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. – Psalm 34:17
The biggest obstacle in our lives God is sin. No matter how much we pray God to remove sin from our lives, it will always be present.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. – 1 John 1:8
But, as the Israelites looked to the bronze serpent for their salvation from the venom of the serpents, so we look to the cross of Christ for salvation from the sin that stains our souls.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:18
There’s a line that’s stood out to me in the song I posted about here, Whom Shall I Fear [God of Angel Armies] by Chris Tomlin:
You are my sword and shield
Though troubles linger still
Whatever we go through, God is there beside us, providing a way through, even if He doesn’t provide a way out.