Mothers for Prodigals

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Lift High the Cross

Feet thunder across an open field. Men, dressed in armor from head to toe and fighting for a cause, oppose the enemy. One man in the middle of the front line carries the standard, a flag embossed with an emblem. He spikes it into the ground on a hill while a trumpet is sounded. That man is the standard bearer who sets the course and communicates the rally cry. 
The standard bearer is an outstanding representative of his movement or organization. He carries a banner bearing the emblem that enables those who look upon it to recognize his group. In battle he utters the rallying cry to call his troops to fight. He is the leader that raises the standard and his warriors follow.
Moses, following God’s lead, was a type of standard bearer as he led the Israelites out of Egypt. They had crossed the Red Sea, gaining a major victory over their enemies. Yet as time went on, they seemed to forget the victory and from where they had fled, almost desiring to go back. Read  below a peculiar story of the complaining Israelites, God and Moses, snakes, and a revolting image (emblem or standard) that gave life. 
They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”
Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.  Numbers 21:4-9 (NIV)
If bitten by a snake, the Israelites actually had to gaze up at an image of a bronze snake in order to live; that had to be rather disgusting, but it brought life. Jesus refers to this passage as He speaks with the Pharisee Nicodemus about new life in John 3. Nicodemus wanted to know how one could be born again and Jesus answered with the words below from verses 10-17 (NIV).
“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, We speak of what We know, and We testify to what We have seen, but still you people do not accept Our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?
No one has ever gone into heaven except the One who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.
For God so love the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. 
Jesus told Nicodemus that just as the bronze snake on a pole gave life to the Israelites, the Son of Man must be lifted up so that all who believed in Him would have eternal life. Jesus was setting the standard for His followers while speaking with Nicodemus. Nicodemus probably didn’t understand all that Jesus explained to him, but in hindsight, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, he should have understood. Here’s an interesting comparison - to the Jews crucifixion was a sign of a curse and just as a bronze snake was revolting to gaze upon, so too would be the sight of the Son of Man on a cross. Yet to look up and believe gave life. Therefore, Jesus became our standard bearer. His cross, the standard, stood spiked into the ground on a hill called Golgatha and He issued the rally cry: that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 
Isaiah 59 tells of the sin that separates us from God and the need for a Redeemer. He comes as a warrior to save those that confess their sins. The Spirit of the Lord lifts up a standard against the enemies of His people, allowing refuge under God’s leadership (vs. 19). He also makes a covenant with the repentant, promising to be with them for generations (vs.21). Praise God for the promises He gives us, our children, and our grandchildren!
As God put on His holy armor to justly redeem His people (Isaiah 59:15-17), we too should clothe ourselves with the armor of God (Ephesians 6:14-18) and fight the good fight of faith, laying hold on eternal life (1 Timothy 6:12). As we follow the example of our Standard Bearer, standing firm on the Word of God, we lift high the cross of Christ so that others may gaze upon Him and live.
Pass through, pass through the gates!
    Prepare the way for the people.
Build up, build up the highway!
    Remove the stones.
Raise a banner for the nations.
The Lord has made proclamation
    to the ends of the earth:
“Say to the Daughter of Zion,
    ‘See, your Savior comes!
See, his reward is with him,
    and his recompense accompanies him.’”

They will be called the Holy People,
    the Redeemed of the Lord;
and you will be called Sought After,
    the City No Longer Deserted.  
Isaiah 62:10-12 (NIV)

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