"And I, When I am Lifted Up...": Lent 4B

Mishaps on the path of redemption, salvation from the paths of deviant sinners, and the apocalyptic messiah lifted up on a pole like a shining poisonous serpent. Thank God for everlasting kindness!

Numbers 21:4-9
They journeyed from Mt. Hor by the Red Sea road in order to skirt the land of Edom, and the soul of the people became worn down on the way. And the people said to God and to Moses, "For what did you bring us up out of the land of Egypt? For death in the wilderness? 'Cause there's no real bread, and no water, and our souls detest this insubstantial bread." And YHVH let poisonous serpents loose among the people, and they bit the people, and numerous Israelites died. And the people came to Moses and said, "We have sinned in what we said to YHVH and to you; intercede with YHVH so that he will turn the snakes away from us." And Moses interceded on behalf of the people.

And YHVH said to Moses, "Make yourself a seraph and place it upon a standard, and everyone who is bitten will see it and live." And Moses made a copper serpent, and put it on the standard. And it happened that if a serpent bit a man, and he looked at the copper serpent, he lived.

Psalm 107:1-3; 17-22
"Praise YHVH for good things,
for his everlasting kindness,"
let the redeemed of YHVH say;
those redeemed from the oppressing hand,
assembled from the lands of the east and the west,
from the lands of the north and the south.

Fools in the path of rebellion,
they were punished for their injustices.
Their souls detested all food,
and seized upon the gate of death.
They called to YHVH in their oppression,
and he delivered them from their oppressors.
He sent out his word and healed them,
and rescued them from the pit.

Praise YHVH for his kindness
for his wonders for the children of earth;
let them offer the sacrifice of praise
and celebrate his deeds with song.

Ephesians 2:1-10
You were dead by your deviations and your failures, in which you once walked according to this cosmic age, according to the ruler of the nebulous powers, the spirit that is currently at work in the children of unpersuasion, among whom we all were also backwards, when for the sake of the lusts of our flesh we did the will of the flesh and its imagination, and we were natural-born children of wrath like the rest. And God, being rich in mercy, has loved us through the greatness of his love, even while we were dead by our deviations, and brought us back to life together with Christ,* and raised and established us in the high heavens together with Christ Jesus, to show the surpassing richness of his grace in the coming ages by showing kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Indeed, by grace you are refugees through trust, and this gift is not from you, but from God; it is not because of deeds, so that no one may boast. For we are his deed, created in Jesus Christ on the basis of good deeds that God made ready in advance so that we could walk in accordance with them.
* I have omitted "you are those who have been saved by grace" here on the basic observance that it simply doesn't fit in this context. The grammar is too good otherwise for it to be anything but a scribal duplication from v. 8, where the same phrase appears in a proper grammatical context.

John 3:14-21
"And just as Moses raised the serpent aloft in the wilderness, so also must the Son of Humanity be raised aloft, so that everyone who trusts in him shall have eternal life. For in this way God loved the world: by giving his only begotten son so that everyone who trusts in him shall not die; they shall have eternal life instead. Indeed, God did not send his son into the world to judge the world; instead, the son was sent so that the world shall be saved through him.

The one who trusts in him is not judged; the one who does not trust has already been judged for not having trusted in the name of the only begotten son of God. And this is the difference: that the light has come into the world, and people on the whole preferred shade to light, because their deeds were worthless and knavish. For everyone who does base, thoughtless things hates the light, and does not come to the light in order to keep his deeds from being exposed. But the one who does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be made clear that his deeds have been done in God."


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