|so, i tried something a bit different at youth group last night, and it went over rather well i think. we’re studying the book of John, and we were in chapter 3, which usually ends up with people talking about “born again”, Nicodemus, and 3:16. however, i was really caught when reading it by verse 14, which makes this great OT reference. so i wrote a dramatic version of the story from Numbers and then tied it into how Christ, raised on the cross, is our present day deliverer. anyway, i thought i’d post the story online…it’s a bit longer than a xanga post might normally be, but hopefully it’ll be worth the read (by the way…this is best read dramatically, possibly even outloud. i refuse to let you bore yourself with my journal entries, so please read with feeling : )…
Cries rang out in the darkness. Cries of desperation. Cries of death. It had begun early that morning, the first ones announced by screams and trampling feet. We had been awakened from a restless sleep to the sound of terror.
It was impossible to get a good night’s rest…sleeping on the ground in tents hastily set up, changing locations every night, wandering and wondering when we would get to the end of this seemingly everlasting journey. Every day seemed to end us just at a different place in this hopeless desert.
Last night around the campfires a moaning had risen up. Whisperings and groaning began softly; husbands to wives, family to family, friend to friend.
“How long must we walk through this forsaken land?!”
“Where are our leaders taking us?”
“Why didn’t we just stay where we were…at least there we had food to eat and the same place to sleep every night!”
Worn out by a long day, the complaining rose and twisted together with the thousands of others. Before long it was like a whirlwind of irritation, sweeping up the whole camp in its wake. Angry eyes glanced across the fire, fists clenched, and mutters rose to shouts.
Finally, we were all too tired to even complain anymore and people shuffled off to their tents. We had not slept long it seemed when the first screams began. At first no one new what was happening. Men grabbed their weapons and rushed outside, thinking perhaps we had been surrounded and ambushed in the night. But no standing enemy was to be found. All of a sudden, just down the row, two men let out horrific screams and collapsed to the ground. What sort of invisible terror was this?! Now in tents behind them, men heard their wives and children wailing in fear and pain. What was happening?! Torches were grabbed and lit and a site unlike any we had yet seen was revealed.
It’s not that we were unfamiliar with strange events. We had seen millions of frogs descend upon our owners when we were slaves. We had seen days last longer than humanly possible. We had walked through the middle of a vast sea…on dry land. And just a short time ago, we had drunk water from a rock. A rock that before our guide struck it with his staff, was as dry as the barren desert that surrounds us.
But this was terrifying. Flitting among the flickering flames were snakes. Snakes everywhere. Snakes on a desert plain. And their poison was swift and deadly. The men that had been bitten upon leaving their tent were already dead. Men rushed back into their tents to wake their families and move them away from anything that could hide a slithering visitor.
It was such a snake that years ago, in the time that humans first roamed the earth, had misled all of humanity. With his forked tongue and sneaky words, he’d led us astray…and broken the perfect the world in which we had lived. Now we realized that we, too, had spoken evil and deceitful words. Words of hate and anger had boiled out of us even earlier that night. And now these snakes were sent to hold us responsible for such carelessness.
Several of us rushed to guide’s tent. He had seen us through every impossible situation so far, even if only to lead us in circles. Surely now even his luck had run out, but we didn’t know who else to turn to.
“Moses…save us! They’re everywhere! We cannot kill them all…they are too many! Pray for us to God. We know we brought this on ourselves…we know the words we spoke were hateful and horrible, but save us, Moses! We will follow and listen. We will obey and live with the Promised Land in our hearts. Just save us…save our families!”
He sent us away and we went back to our families. We kept our weapons and torches in hand and desperately kept the snakes at bay, waiting for Moses. Waiting for, perhaps, a kinder judgment.
At dawn Moses came out of his tent with a staff in hand, a bronze snake wrapped around it. With a booming voice, thoroughly unlike the one he used to have when he called us on this journey, and authority he spoke for all to hear:
“If you are bitten, look upon this staff that I raise up before you and you will not die. But now, release your irritation upon these snakes and clear these beasts from our people. Vent your anger and destroy your ill thoughts. Remove these deceivers from us.”
We did not need to be asked twice. Immediately the whole of the Israeli nation set upon hacking and burning the snakes to death. And whenever any were bit in the struggle, the looked up to Moses, standing with the sunlight streaming across his shoulders, the rod grasped firmly in his hand, and they were immediately healed.
And so we were again delivered. Like so many times before. We forget so quickly, but tonight around the fire we share stories of faithfulness and God’s provision. We remind each other of the miraculous and even celebrate the mundane ways in which he has given us all that we need to make it through each day. And we look with hope toward a land worth this long journey.
snakes on a desert plain