"And the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way." We so easily get discouraged and it is a most dangerous state to get in. It is the very place where the devil strikes us. Do not ever get discouraged.
THE WRONG WAY
The children of Israel had chosen their own way, and God had told them it was a bad way before they had chosen it, but still they chose it; and, therefore, they should not have gotten discouraged, because it was the way they wanted to go. Perhaps we are suffering from the results of disobedience, for having taken some way which God would not have chosen for us; but do not get discouraged, even if it be so, for God follows us and is there when we have brought our troubles upon ourselves. He will never leave us nor forsake us. Do not be discouraged by your trying situations. Do not look at these things; if you look at them they will mesmerize you.
DO NOT GET DISCOURAGED
They began to feel blue and to think things that were very bad. Do not ever let the devil know that he has hurt you. Do not ever let him hear you say, "It is hard." If he feels that he does hurt you he will stay and try harder, but if he thinks he does not hurt you he will not waste his time on you. Do not for the world let people tell you about your troubles; do not let them sympathize with you. Always rejoice, always be cheerful. Under no circumstances get discouraged or be depressed.
Well, the next thing after they got discouraged, we read, "And the people spake against God and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread, neither is there any water, and our soul loatheth this light bread." Discouragement leads to discontent, discontent leads to doubt, suspicion, unbelief. They did it under the disguise of giving Moses a good talking to, but it was God they meant. The devil is trying today to get you to find fault with God. Don't hastily find fault with circumstances or with people, lest you should be found "even to fight against God."
Next comes the stage of judgment. "The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people." When we are looking for trouble we get trouble. When we are in the complaining mood we shall get something to complain about. Oh, as we talk about our little troubles if we could only see what real trouble is, and God often gives us a pinch of it just to make us ashamed of our petty complaining and murmuring. And so God sent judgment. God was very much displeased with the spirit of murmuring, with the spirit of discouragement, with the spirit of unbelief, and sent fiery serpents. They were serpents, but God sent them. They were physical ailments, they were demon powers, but God was above, God was behind. Oh, how absurd and extreme are the teachings of the wildfire, self-appointed prophets of our age. God lets the devil be an instrument of judgment. It is God's strange way, but when people get on the devil's ground, God lets the devil take them prisoners and shut them up in the Castle of Giant Despair and makes it very hard for them. And so God is in these troubles. Disease may come from Satan or from natural causes. It comes by divine permission. When you find anybody talking lightly or recklessly about it, just stick to your Bible. If God is in the chastening, God alone can command its removal.
Next we find repentance. Judgment brings conviction, sorrow, shame, repentance. And so they came to Moses, and said, "We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that He take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people." There must be frank acknowledgment of sin. Prayer must come after penitence-that is the place for Moses' prayer. And so we must pray, and God hears the prayers of His united people and those whom He has placed in the ministry of a peculiar priesthood. The prayer does not dissipate the serpents. The prayer only sets in operation the process by which everything moves. God heard Moses' prayer, and He set in operation His plan of healing.
God's one object was to bring Jesus into prominence, to make Him known, to show Him in some new light and some new way, and for this reason He let all this come to pass because He was going to give them a new emblem of His Son. So, dear friend, when sickness comes to you, when any trial enters into your life, even if it be through your unbelief and sin, even if you have been to blame for it all, behind it all is the divine love that allows it to come into your life.
REVELATION OF JESUS
God lifts up His own Son in the midst of disease and death and bids them look to Him and live. And so if there has come to you a trial, and even through a sin, lift up your eyes and you will behold, not God's judgment, not a revelation of wrath, but a blessed manifestation of Jesus Christ, and He will come into your life in some new way which you have never known before, and you will thank the devil and be glad of your trial for having brought you nearer to your Lord. Moses was commanded to make a serpent of brass and set it upon a pole. And it came to pass that anyone who had been bitten could live by looking. God has told us that, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up." This is God's remedy for disease as well as sin.
THE LOOK OF FAITH
The prayer of Moses was not enough. The prayer of Moses brought the revelation of Jesus, but that was not enough unless they took the healing, looked at the figure and drew life from it by the contact of faith through the power of a look. And it is just the same today. The prayers of God's people bring Christ to you, but you must take the life by the same look that they did. You must somehow get into contact with Him. The senses of your soul and the very functions of your body must somehow come into touch with Him, must become responsive to Him, must draw from Him and drink from Him, just as the plant draws the nourishment from the air and the soil and lives. It is a living touch and a living look.
Now this figure of looking is the most scientifically correct one that could be used. It is true that the eye has a strange power to bring into connection the outer with the inner world. If I look at an object of terror, it is infused into my mind; and sometimes they say the murdered man, long after death, has the picture of his murderer in his very eye. He took him in that dreadful hour of agony and fear, and there he is impressed as by a touch of fire. If that camera looks into your face, it takes your face right in. It just looks at you and it takes in all there is of you. And so it is true, it is one of the strangest truths, that as we look at the evil the evil hypnotizes us, the evil imparts itself to us.
Just the same is it when you turn heavenward. You reflect the brightness; you take in the joy and love and strength, and you grow like it and its nature passes into you.
So the wounded Hebrew looked at that bright image of brass, and began to be conscious that a strange peace and sweetness was passing through his being, filling him with vital pulses from heart to limb, thrilling all his being, and after a while the stupor and the horror of death passes away and he throws the serpent's poison off. But if he just curled himself up in his wretchedness and refused to look, all the pleadings of Moses were in vain. That is just the way the woman got healed. She pressed forward and drew from the Lord the life that was in Him for anybody to take, but which the others did not know how to take. And so the same Christ is still lifted up, and the Holy Spirit loves to present Him in the hour of pain and sickness. If you turn to Him and fix your eye upon Him, then into the aching body will come peace and rest; you will find your lungs expanding, your frame exhilarated, and your lips will begin to say, "0 Christ, Thy flesh is meat indeed, and Thy blood is drink indeed." For it is not a glance, but it is a fixed and settled look. It is an abiding look. Now, this is where we come short, this is where we fail, this is the place to which nearly every case of disappointment can be traced. Perhaps you have confessed your wrong, perhaps you have believed in the divine remedy, perhaps you have done it intelligently and believingly, but you did not keep Him in view, you did not begin to look and keep looking, you did not learn that inner touch, that blessed consciousness of the breath and the touch of Jesus Christ, that spiritual sense of God which He will give to the finest instincts of the trusting soul.
There is a strange disinclination to wait upon God. Men would rather go to a priest and give him money to do their waiting upon God for them instead of going to God themselves.
Again, we are here taught the great atoning work of Jesus Christ for the body and for the soul. Why was it that this symbol of healing was made in the form of a serpent? Why was not some other symbol used? Why was the serpent chosen? It looks a little strange. There must have been some deep meaning in it. Was it not because our Saviour was made in the likeness of sinful men? But the one point in which they differed was that the serpent of brass had no poison in it. He was made sin for us, but He was not sinful. He was made like the disease of the fallen race; there is something in Him that reminds us of our scourge and curse. But it did not really defile Him. That serpent seems to point to the lifting up of the Son of. Man on the cross; and it seems almost as if Jesus took the serpent right into His arms and received his poison and his sting that we might escape. Jesus took the serpent's sting and the serpent's poison into His own heart and into His own life, and, therefore, we may be free. Having borne in His body what our body deserves to bear, why should we bear it, too? Why should you be stung by the devil's fangs when He was stung to death for you? And so our Lord is revealed to us as the atonement for sickness, as the One "who bore our infirmities, and carried our pains" and "by His stripes we are healed"; and the Holy Spirit is trying to present Him to you so that you cannot help seeing. Oh, for this revelation of Jesus! Oh, that He might come to you in the dark place, and the sad place, in the sick room, and say, "I have brought you here just so that your eyes might be turned to the cross."
If you just receive it, it will fill your being. But if you turn away it is gone. It is only while you look that you live. It is the abiding that keeps me in contact with the Living One. It will bind you up to Christ, and you will never be able to get along without Him. And it will be true every moment, "Without Me ye can do nothing." And your life will be one long "looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith."