4Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey. 5The people spoke against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.”
The Israelites had been miraculously delivered from slavery in Egypt and were heading towards the Promised Land--the land God had promised to give to the descendants of Abraham whom He had entered into covenant with. However, they became impatient along the way--many times. In this case they also spoke against God and Moses. They called the manna God miraculously provided for food "miserable" and said they loathed it. Unfortunately, complaints had become common with them on this journey.
Prior to this incident, a generation of them had already become destined to die in the wilderness because of their unbelief that God could give them the Promised Land that He said He had given them. Twelve spies were sent to check out the land and ten of them came back and said they couldn't take it. The giants in the land were too big. God determined at that time that they would die in the wilderness, all except for the two spies who said they could take it--Joshua and Caleb. The rest would die and their children would be the ones to possess the land (Numbers 13-14).
On another occasion they complained about the manna, missing the food in Egypt, and saying they wanted meat. The Lord sent them enough quail to last for a month. However, people became greedy and while the meat was still in their mouth they were struck with a severe plague and died (Numbers 11).
God was in covenant with the Israelites but they didn't seem to understand that covenants are not one-sided. They were to be participants in this covenant. They had an important part in God's purposes in the Earth. They were to carry the oracles of God and birth the Messiah who would save the nations. Yet, their slavery mentality kept them in bondage. They were in a habit of complaining about their captors--those in authority over them. After being delivered from slavery they continued complaining, yet with the complaints directed towards God and Moses instead of the Egyptians.
Early on in the Israelites journey out of Egypt, they came to Marah where they found the waters were bitter. They couldn't drink it and they complained. Moses cried out to the Lord who showed him a tree. Moses threw the tree into the water and they became sweet so the people could drink. At that same place, the Lord made a statute and a regulation that if the Israelites would listen to Him, hear His commandments, keep all His statutes and do what is right in His sight, then He would not put any of the diseases on them that He did the Egyptians. (Exodus 15:22-27).
He would provide for them, but they would have to listen to Him and do what He says. He was teaching them what it was like to be in covenant.
Now, back to what happened after they complained and spoke against God and Moses:
6The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people. 8Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.” 9And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.
After these serpents came, the people recognized that they had done wrong and repented. They asked Moses to pray and remove the serpents. However, instead of removing them God told Moses to set a serpent on a pole for them to look at after being bitten, and they would be healed. So he made a bronze serpent and set it up on a pole. A type of Jesus up on the cross.
These serpents are an example of how sin wounds. Sin poisons. Your sin wounds you, your sin can wound others, and other's sins can wound you. The serpents were like the manifestation of their sin and the damage it caused. Like an object lesson, God was showing them what their heart attitude and their words were doing to them--it was poisoning them and killing them.
So, they repented. They had done this many times before and knew what to do when things didn't go right. Yet it seems that their repentance had been very shallow. They would repent, yet turn back and do the same thing again. However, this time they would have to "feel the pain" of their sin for a little while until they could get to the pole and be healed.
True repentance is painful. It's tempting to say a quick, "Please forgive me, Lord," prayer and not fully address a sin we have committed. If we keep doing this we end up searing our conscience which decreases our sensitivity to the voice of God. God wanted them, and wants us, to understand the importance of true repentance.
Dutch Sheets has a good teaching on the four-step process of repentance. Briefly summarized as:
First we have remorse--sorrow. Sorrow because we feel the pain of that sin, not just because we "got caught." In the case of the Israelites, this was the pain of the snakebite.
Next is the revelation of the consequence of that sin and where it leads. What it does to you and others.
Then we have a more true repentance because of the remorse and understanding we've received about our sin.
Finally, we have the desired result--we turn from that sin and don't return back to it. Our repentance was not shallow, we walk away from that sin.
So, what do we do when we sin, and how do we recover completely from it?
We truly repent and receive forgiveness and cleansing from our sin.1 John 1:9
9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
We might keep the wounds of our sin open thorough guilt. If we do not fully repent and/or fully receive God's forgiveness and cleansing, guilt will work against us like that poison from the snake.
Let's look at a New Testament Scripture to see how we must receive this full cleansing and healing so our walk stays in alignment:
1Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 4You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; 5and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him; (Job 5:17) 6For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.” (Proverbs 3:12).
When we don’t understand that we must stand against sin at all costs, then He disciplines us for our own good, so we can live.
7It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
God disciplines us for our own good. Our earthly fathers disciplined us and, though its not pleasant, we learned from it. How much more should we subject ourselves to our heavenly Father so we may share in His holiness, and live?
12Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, 13and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.
The context here is of overcoming sin, striving against it to the point of shedding our own blood if necessary, and receiving God's discipline when needed. In this context, we strengthen our weak hands and feeble knees. We make straight paths for our feet. We don't adjust our path to accommodate our lame limbs. We don't learn to live with our sin, or accept it as a character defect, or make excuses for it. No, we receive His strengthening and His healing so we are strong and aligned on our path--His righteous path.
What do we do regarding other's sin against us?
We've been talking about when we sin, repent, and receive healing and strengthening from the wounds that were caused. But the same is true of other people's sin towards us. It wounds us, we forgive, and turn them over to God for Him to deal with them.
Forgiveness means we don't seek vengeance. If there is any resentment, unrighteous anger, bitterness, or even self-pity, we are keeping that wound open allowing the poison from the snake to remain in our system working against us. And if we don't fully forgive, then we get ourselves into sin and start that whole process again. It's not worth it. We need to address sin properly and completely so it doesn't keep a foothold in our life. Whether its sin we've committed, or the sin of others, it needs to be dealt with completely, once and for all, so as not to get us off balance and off track.
14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
Every sickness is not caused by a person sinning. However, confession of sin, sickness, prayer, faith, anointing with oil, healing and forgiveness are all mentioned together here. Often there are connections. If there is any sickness, any nagging guilt, any lingering resentment, bitterness etc. going on in your life, its worth it to take some time examining your heart before the Lord to get these things resolved once and for all.
Psalm 51:7-10: “Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
- Think of anything regarding sin that bothers you, that isn't resolved. Whether it's sin you've committed, or sin others have committed against you.
- It could be something you've done that has been a sin against God. Or something that has wounded or affected others. Or something you've done that has harmed yourself.
- Even if you have already repented, you could still be carrying guilt in regard to this, or maybe you haven't fully repented.
- Notice if you feel you haven't really repented and felt real sorrow over this sin. Ask the Lord to reveal the reality of those things so you can truly repent if necessary. So its not just a shallow repentance.
- Take a moment because sometimes our conscience becomes calloused and we need to give these things time to surface.
- If someone has sinned against you, notice if you feel you haven't really forgiven them.
- If you think you have forgiven them, yet there is still be a wound causing pain, if there is still any anger, resentment, bitterness, or self-pity, it still needs to be addressed. Let go of the pain and fully forgive. Get the poison of the snake out of your system. Decide to forgive.
- Ask the Lord to bring all these things to light and become aware of their reality. Ask Him to help you recognize the wounds that are still open. Even if its slight. If you think about something that happened and feel even just a twinge of a wound, address that while praying.
- If you can't think of any specific sin that is left un-dealt with or that has left an unhealed wound, still pray for any strengthening that needs to occur in any vulnerable areas.
Father God, I come before You in the Name of Jesus.
Please show me any sin I have committed that I haven’t fully repented of. Show me the full consequence of this sin. Show me how I have hurt You, myself, or others. I am truly sorry for these sins. I repent and turn away from them. Please forgive me and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I receive Your forgiveness and cleansing. I forgive myself. I let go of all guilt, or any pride, I might have had, in regards to any sin.
Also Father, please show me anyone who has wounded me, or sinned against me, that I haven’t truly forgiven. I forgive everyone who has sinned against me. I turn them over to You, the Righteous Judge. I let go of all anger, resentment, bitterness, vengeance, criticism, self-pity, or any other ungodly attitude towards them.
Now Holy Father, I ask for Your healing, from any wounds caused by sin—my sin, or the sin of others. Heal me, spirit, soul, and body. Strengthen me where I’ve been weak, so the power of Christ dwells in me, and I can walk the straight path of Your will. I also ask for the healing, of those whom I have wounded by my sin.
I allow these wounds to be healed. I will not prevent their healing. I will not hold the wounds open, but allow full healing, and restoration, to take place, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Suggested oils to use for anointing: hyssop oil (cleansing), balm of Gilead (healing), and cedar (strengthening), or whatever you have.