Promise Breakers & Weird Record Makers

originally preached 3/14/2021

Message Title: Promise Breakers & Weird Record Makers
Theme: Record Breakers & Redemption
Season: Lent
Main Text: Numbers 21:4-9
Scripture Reading: John 3:14-21
RCL Scripture: Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21
Focus: God keeps God’s promises
Function: To stop wishing for Egypt and look forward to breaking cycles by stepping forward with God
Other Notes: Guinness Records in Indiana

SCRIPTURE READING: John 3:14-21 14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so must the Human One be lifted up 15so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. 16God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. 17God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18Whoever believes in him isn’t judged; whoever doesn’t believe in him is already judged, because they don’t believe in the name of God’s only Son. 19“This is the basis for judgment: The light came into the world, and people loved darkness more than the light, for their actions are evil. 20All who do wicked things hate the light and don’t come to the light for fear that their actions will be exposed to the light. 21Whoever does the truth comes to the light so that it can be seen that their actions were done in God.”

INDIANA/WORLD RECORD: most “rump jumps”

David Fisher from Westfield, In holds the world record for the most “rump jumps” in a minute.

If you have neve seen a “rump jump” … you aren’t alone. Here’s a photo from Indy Star of David in action.

  1. Set: July 8, 1998.
  2. About the record: David Fisher, who recently moved to Indianapolis, set the record for the most revolutions turned while pushing off and landing only on his backside in one minute. Fisher rump jumped 56 times.
  3. Sources:

TRANSITION: Yes, this is a strange type of world record to establish. Unlike the longest high-five chain, I don’t think many are attempting to break this record.

In our text for today we will see an equally weird interaction between God and the Israelites. Much time has passed since our passage from last week. In fact, this is a completely new generation. Could this generation be more faithful to the covenant with God than the last? Let’s see…

SCRIPTURE READING: Numbers 21:4-9 4They marched from Mount Hor on the Reed Sea road around the land of Edom. The people became impatient on the road. 5The people spoke against God and Moses: “Why did you bring us up from Egypt to kill us in the desert, where there is no food or water. And we detest this miserable bread!” 6So the Lord sent poisonoussnakes among the people and they bit the people. Many of the Israelites died. 7The people went to Moses and said, “We’ve sinned, for we spoke against the Lord and you. Pray to the Lord so that he will send the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8The Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous snake and place it on a pole. Whoever is bitten can look at it and live.” 9Moses made a bronze snake and placed it on a pole. If a snake bit someone, that person could look at the bronze snake and live.

EXPLAINATION: God teaches a lesson using snakes.

  1. Who: Moses and the 2nd generation of Israelites; this is the first generation AFTER slavery. They were not enslaved.
  2. Where: In the desert/wilderness on their way to the Promise Land; going AROUND the land of Edom.
  3. Action: This generation resented wandering in the wilderness and being raised on manna. The spoke out against God who rescued their parents/grandparents from slavery and provided them food AND the spoke out against Moses who led them.
  4. Consequences: God sent “poisonous snakes,” they bite people, a bunch of people die,
  5. Repentance: the Israelites actually acknowledge that they spoke wrong of God and of Moses and ask God to help them. 
  6. Redemption:  God helps them by having Moses build a Snake Pole that the people look at and are healed.

INTERPRETATION: God teaches a lesson using snakes.

  1. Inherited Bias: The second generation inherited an attitude from the previous generation with out question or reflection.
    1. Examples today: Sports teams or comfort food
      1. Serious examples: politics, religion, or world view.
      2. The previous generation passed on their experiences, knowledge, and inherited beliefs/bias and want you to receive without bias.
    2. “I wanna go back to Egypt”
      1. Kids! You never were in Egypt. You are echoing the words of your parents & grandparents before you.
      2. This generation has carried on the wrong tradition from their ancestors. Instead of passing on a faithfulness to God they passed on a lack of gratitude and perspective.
    3. “And we detest this miserable bread”—The Hebrew here suggests that they detest this food so much that they gag or retch at the thought of eating it. This magical bread that God provided them since their infancy.
      1. God provided mercy and grace to the previous generation through manna and quail. They were ungrateful and complained about this food. The next generation was raised to be ungrateful for this blessing from God.
        1. Their parents and grandparents weren’t allowed to enter the promise land because of their inability to be faithful.
        2. Why would you want to copy the bitterness and brokenness of the previous generation?
        3. Do you want to walk in to the same consequences as that generation?
  2. Recognizing our Inherited Bias: We’re gonna have a little exercise. As we talk about the next thing, I want you to be aware of your internal reactions.
    1. God’s consequences—God gave the weirdest consequences for this sin by sending poisonous snakes.
      1. “poisonous snakes” à hebrew “fiery snakes” à “fiery seraphim” à dragons 😉 (WP)
          1. “I. שָׂרָף noun masculineIsaiah 14:29 a serpent, usually venomous (possibly from above v, from burning effect of poison); — absolute ׳שׂ Numbers 21:8 (J E; on Arabic parallels see JacobArabic Dichter ii. 93, iv. 10 f.), apposition ׳נָחָשׁ שׂ Deuteronomy 8:15, plural הַנְּחָשִׁים הַשְּׂרָפִים Numbers 21:6; a flying serpent, or dragon, שָׂרָף מְעוֺפֵף Isaiah 14:29Isaiah 30:6.”
          2. “II. [שָׂרָף] noun masculineIsaiah 6:2 plural שְׂרָפִים seraphim (probably akin to I. ׳שׂ, as beings originally mythically conceived with serpents’ bodies (serpent-deities, compare Isaiah 14:29Isaiah 30:6), or (CheComm.) personified of lightning, compare arts. SERAPHIM, StrachanHast. DB CheEncy. Bib.; Di Marti and others compare also Egyptian guardian-griffins, called Šerref; see also כְּרוּב; on Assyrian Šarrapu (-bu), epithet of god Nergal, connected by DlWB with √ שָׂרַף, see שָׁרָב, ZimKAT 3. 415); — in OT. majestic beings with six wings, and human hands and voices, attendant upon ׳י Isaiah 6:2,6.”
    2. The Christian hope has changed.
      1. If we dive into scripture, the Christian hope isn’t in heaven but in Christ returning and restoring creation. If the Christian hope was in heaven, we would be excited to die. But something deep inside of us wants to live.
      2. The church shifted the Christian hope over centuries.
        1. In the Victorian era we saw a shift of religion being a masculine field to a feminine field. We also saw Angels become cute chubby babies with wings that could not defy gravity.
        2. War and mortality changed the way the church preached. And we haven’t pushed back for generations.
      3. Heaven isn’t the goal. Christ’s return and the restoration of the earth is the Christian hope.

APPLICATION: To stop wishing for Egypt and look forward to breaking cycles by stepping forward with God

  1. Time of Reflection with music
    1. What is our Egypt: What are we looking back on with rose colored glasses?
    2. What is God asking us to step away from?
    3. What is God asking us to step towards?
    4. What has this path lead us “around”?


  1. God’s mercy also came by a snake.
    1. I picture this and think of the symbols for the EMT and Doctors- but their symbols are both rooted in Greek mythology.
    2. God used weird & miraculous means to heal the people.
    3. God was committed to his promise to Abraham. Abraham’s descendants would live in the Promise Land.
  2. Post Script: I wish I could tell you that the Israelites were faithful from this point forward, but they weren’t. They continued to struggle with their faithfulness & obedience to God for generations.
    1. They “committed” to the covenant (the 10 commandments) of their parents/grandparents. They claimed God as their God and said the 10 commandments was their law…. But continued to struggle with faithfulness for generations.

God is faithful. We are called to be faithful, not a carbon copy of the previous generation. May we inherit a strong faith but let the stubborn pride or cranky attitudes fade with time.

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