January 18th, 2023 – Late Wednesday Morning
“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” ~John 3:14-17
In our last devotional, we were reminded (and hopefully challenged by) the command to love God with all that we are and to love our neighbor as ourselves. In that discussion, the need for understanding the love of God was apparent; if we don’t know what love truly is (according to the Author and Definition of love), how can we possibly love Him or anyone else? Today, let’s take another look at one of the most familiar verses in Scripture, John 3:16, as well as some of its surrounding context – in order to lay again in our minds the foundation of the love of God.
In this section of God’s Word, Moses and the lifting of the serpent in the wilderness are used as an illustration for how the Son of Man (Jesus) had to be lifted up. If we look back at Numbers 21, we see the recounting of this incident; it entailed the complaining (again) of the children of Israel against God and Moses, God’s judgment (fiery – possibly due to poison – serpents), and God’s merciful remedy (the bronze serpent). In that situation, those who looked at the bronze serpent (choosing to believe in God’s remedy) lived, even after being bitten by a fiery serpent. Jesus, in John 3, likens this incident to how He must be lifted up so that those who would look on Him (believing in God’s merciful remedy for sin) would also live.
Jesus then states that it was the love of God for mankind that led Him to give His only Son to be lifted up [on the cross] so that those who believe might be saved from destruction. He didn’t send Jesus to bring about judgment on the world – mankind already stood (and stands) condemned before God because of sin (just as the complaining of the Israelites had condemned them before God and brought about His wrath). Jesus was given as the remedy for mankind’s sin, and His death displays forever the great and awesome love of God – even for those who once hated Him, complained against Him, violated His commandments, etc.
Of course, a remedy is no good if it isn’t applied. God didn’t send Jesus to judge the world that first time (that will come in time), but only those who choose to believe in God’s remedy (and therefore submit their lives to Him) escape God’s judgment. Remember, none of the Israelites deserved mercy and none gained it by their own volition; only those who looked on the serpent survived. In the same way, no human has ever deserved God’s mercy, nor can we ever obtain it by our own will; yet, God in His abundant mercy and love has given us His perfect and complete remedy in Jesus.
Do you know the love of God? Have you believed in God’s remedy for sin? Are you living a life of love by His grace and Spirit? My friends, let us always remember the love of God in Christ! Only then, as we rest in His remedy and live by His power, can we love Him with all that we are and love those around us as we ought.