The Daily Office | March 28, 2018
Psalms 132, 133, 134, 135
Psalms 136, 137, 138
Collect: Ash Wednesday
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Collect: Wednesday of Holy Week
Assist us mercifully with your grace, Lord God of our salvation, that we may enter with joy upon the meditation of those mighty acts by which you have promised us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Our Old Testament reading from Numbers this morning should actually be quite familiar. It is associated with the most familiar verse in the whole bible: John 3:16! If you haven't read John 3:16 in context before, take a look and see what comes directly before it in verses 14-15 - Jesus makes a reference to this exact story, and compares the Son of Man being lifted up to Moses' bronze serpent.
What else is similar between these two settings: Moses with God's people in the wilderness, and Jesus with God's people in the first century?
In both, God's people questioned Moses/Jesus with disbelief and lack of trust. In both, the result of their disbelief and lack of trust is death. In both, the result of the object being lifted up is life for God's people. Anyone who is bitten, when he looks upon the serpent, shall live; anyone who is dead to sin, when he looks upon the crucified Christ, who died for his sins, and has faith in him, will be given eternal life. The bronze serpent brought healing to snake bites; the cross of Christ brought healing to the sinfulness of our souls.
And it is in this context that Jesus says to Nicodemus, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life."
The New Testament was written in the context of the Old. This is why it's important for us to read and know our Old Testament just as much as the New. If we consider just specific quotations and direct allusions alone, the New Testament references the Old Testament over 270 times! There are only 260 chapters in the New Testament - more references to the Old Testament than chapters! Understanding the history, the prophecy, the law, the Hebrew fathers, and all the stories that make up Jewish culture in the 1st century really helps us to read our New Testaments better and with more understanding.
Rev. Kevin Cook