Moving towards God
Numbers 21: 4-9. John 3: 1-15.
Have you been listening to the phone-ins on Brexit recently?
There is one emotion that seems to be prevalent in all of them...anger.
People are so angry.
People that were for Brexit are angry, people who were against Brexit are angry,
Now here’s the thing.
You would think that everyone would be angry at Teresa May and her team because they are our leaders just now, they are the ones that have negotiated the settlement.
Or maybe angry at the EU negotiators because they are obviously the ones on the EU side that have negotiated the terms from their side.
But that is not what I have found.
I have found that everyone is angry at EVERYONE else.
Why is that important?
Because we make a big mistake if we don't regard the Bible as full of real people; real people who act like real people.
When I am angry I am not a rational, reasonable person. And my anger is not limited to the person who should get my anger; the whole world gets my anger.
That fact of human nature is important here.
The people have lost their patience with God and Moses, they are angry at God and Moses. But not just them...
They are sick and tired of the journey; they are sick and tired of the food.
They got meat for a while but they got it until they were sick of it.
And they are angry people.
And that means that they are a people that are moving apart from each other...literally.
The tents would be moving further and further away from each other. You are sick and tired of not being able to get to sleep because the couple next door are arguing all night.
You are sick and tired of the children in the next tent making noises all night.
You are really sick and tired that when you get out of your tent in the morning you stand on something you wouldn't want to stand on because someone in another tent wouldn't leave the campsite in the dark to do the toilet so they just did it outside your tent.
Mix that up with something else.
They are used to having birds for meals, which probably means they are used to having eggs. But how many of them know the difference between a bird’s egg which are left unattended and a snake’s egg which would have the snake nearby?
Here’s a question?
Who has lived in Alva the longest?
I have been here 21 years...who has been here longer?
Have you walked the hills, walked to Tilly or Menstrie?
In all those years how many wild snakes have you seen?
There is a reason for that.
Snakes feel vibrations.
Human beings make a lot of vibrations; our villages, our towns, our cities.
Snakes are smart enough to know to keep away.
But if you have people wandering off on their own, putting their tent up nowhere near others. The snake keeps still to see what you are going to do, and when, off to sleep you go so the snake thinks it is out of danger, so it stays put.
Then you accidentally frighten it later and suddenly there is a problem.
So Moses comes up with an ingenious solution, or maybe Moses doesn't and God just tells Moses what he needs to do to solve the problem.
Create a statue of a snake. If you can see the snake then you will be safe from snake bites.
So if you have a toddler, how close to that statue are you going to put your tent?
If your spouse is elderly and can’t see every well, how close are you going to put your tent to that snake statue?
If you love your wife and family how close are you going to put your tent to that statue?
If you care for no one but yourself, but you really love yourself, how close are you going to put your tent to that statue?
So the end result of that statue being placed where it was that over 600 thousand people are now trying to get as close to the statue as they can.
That is so much vibration that any snakes in the area just moves away from the place.
Here’s the take home message.
God doesn’t deal with us the way we want, or they way we feel He should.
God deals with us the way we need.
If the people had a choice they would have said that God should just have explained it all to them.
Sat them down.
Said, ‘Don’t you think that you are being a bit selfish here? Maybe if you all moved in closer to each other then that would deal with the problem with the snakes.’
And in their imagination they would say, ‘Of course God, that would be a smart thing to do. I will do as you ask.’
And all would be well.
But that was never going to happen.
People are stupid.
And when people get angry they get really stupid.
If God has sat them down and said, ‘Maybe you could move all your tents a bit closer to each other and all would be well.’
Someone at the back would say, ‘Well God you’ve got to tell that family they need to wash more often. You know how much they smell?’
Then the reply to that would be, ‘Don’t you tell me I smell. Have you seen the way they bring up their children? No respect for other people’s property. And I can see the way your man is looking at my wife. I don't want your tent anywhere near my tent.’
Here’s the truth.
People today are just as stupid as people then.
The one thing that would make our life better now is the one thing that would make their life better.
Getting closer to the centre of God’s community.
We might not have snakes killing us off like in those days.
But we have loneliness at epidemic proportions.
In the world we have today how can there be loneliness?
We have over 6 billion people in the world today. We have more people in the world than the rest of history put together.
There are more people in the word than ever, and yet we can’t find a friend to talk to?
And it isn't because it is hard to talk to people.
When I was a nipper if someone moved to Canada we might never see or hear from them again.
We are now able to communicate with people at the other side of the world instantly. I could contact my sister in New Zealand and both hear and see her instantly. And yet millions of people can’t find anyone to listen to them when they are struggling?
The answer now is the same answer that the people needed then.
Move towards the sign of God.
If you move towards the sign of God then you move towards God and God’s community. And if you are in the middle of God and God’s community then you find God and God’s community there to help you.
So how do you do that?
You get close to God by things like this...worship. Being somewhere where you can listen to God's word; where you can hear things that you might not have expected to hear. Where you can reflect and think on how God works in this world, how God works in your life.
You can listen to other worship or preachers on Youtube or on religious channels on the TV. You can read scripture with others or on your own. You can use Bible study notes. You can pray. You can meditate by being in silence with a lit candle.
You can get closer to God’s community by being closer to God’s community. By going to the teas and coffees, or by going to the Guild or Men's Group, or by meeting up with others for coffee in the coffee shop regularly.
By moving closer to the person next to you in the church pew and actually talking to them every now and again. If you don’t know how to do that then buy a packet of sweets and just before the intimations are announced ask them if they want a sweet.
One of the closest family friends we had was a Mrs Worsley. My parents got to know her because she sat at the back seat of the church. And when they first went they didn't know if they even wanted to go to church so they sat in the back pew thinking that no one would see them. And that was her family seat. So over years they got to know each other. When, due to ill health, she stopped going to church mum would go and visit her a couple of times a week to make sure that she had food in the house and that she was OK.
Not that the care was all one way. Even when she was frail her mind was as sharp as anything. I can't think of any of the family that at some point didn't go to her for advice about something.
The safest place for us to be is the centre of God and his community.
I know that is against everything the world tells us.
The world tells us that independence is everything.
The world tells us that we can't really trust anyone else.
The world tells us that the only person that matters in this world is ourselves.
But we were made for community; community with God, community with others.
And we are never really content, at peace, at home, until we have both.
And I know that sounds hard.
And I know that sounds like a lot of effort.
But the truth is that when we are away from God, when we are away from God’s community, we are away from life and all that matters.
When we are away from God, when we are away from God's community we are putting ourselves in a place of danger.
We have all taken the first step of being in community.
We are here, we are with others.
Think about the next step, reaching out to those around you, being there for them, and letting them be there for us.