We’ve all heard the phrase, “Don’t just stand there; do something!” Surely many of the Israelites who embarked on the great exodus out of Egypt felt that way when they found themselves trapped between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s chariots. They would have looked anxiously at Moses, who had led them into what appeared to be an utterly hopeless situation, expecting him to be racing back and forth, barking orders, and setting up defensive fortifications. “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?” they snarled. Moses did nothing; he stood gazing up at the heavens, waiting for God’s command. Surely at that point many of the terrified Israelites shouted the Hebrew equivalent of “Don’t just stand there, Moses; do something!”
Stand still and See the Lord!
Moses turned to the people. “Stand still,” he said calmly, “and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today.” And they did!
This would not be the last time that God’s people found His means of deliverance completely counterintuitive. You would think the parting of the Red Sea had convinced them that salvation belongs to God (Revelation 7:10), but much like you and me, they needed divine reminders.
“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 Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’ . . . Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived” (Numbers 21:4-6, 8-9)
Can you picture it? You’re an Israelite; you’ve been traveling through this wilderness for years. God has met your every need; He has given you manna from heaven (called “the bread of angels” in Psalm 78:25), provided water, and your clothes and shoes have not worn out. But it’s hot . . . you’re tired of walking . . . sick of the monotonous landscape . . . and I suppose even angel food cake may start to taste a little bland after eating it every day for years on end. So you forget how much you hated your slavery in Egypt, you forget how you cried out to God to deliver you from bondage, and you begin to grumble.
Today we wonder how people who had seen God part an ocean could grumble against that good and gracious and powerful God . . . but are we any different? Do you really believe you wouldn’t have lost faith? You never would have grumbled against Moses, who was leading you on a seemingly meandering path to nowhere? You never would have looked up to heaven as the sweat stung your eyes and growled, “This is just great, Lord. Another day in this lousy desert!” Are you sure? Or perhaps you have a lot more in common with the people of Israel than you thought?
So here you are, trudging across the desert, grumbling as you go. Suddenly a snake springs from behind a rock and sinks its fangs into your calf. The pain is agonizing! You flail desperately with your staff, and the creature slithers off, but it’s too late. You can feel the venom coursing through your body. You cry out in terror, “Moses, help me!”
And once again, Moses offers a nonsensical solution! “Look to the bronze serpent that is lifted up on a pole! Look to the serpent and live!”
“Look?!” you sputter incredulously. “I’ve been bitten by a serpent! I’m dying! There must be something I can do to save myself!”
A venomous sting
We have all been bitten by the serpent called sin, and the venom that brings inevitable death is coursing through our veins. We’re dying! The day will come when we will stand before a perfectly holy, righteous God and give account for the way we lived . . . we will confess how badly the venom poisoned our lives. Surely there must be something I can do! Man has invented many religions that require us to work our way toward God. If we just observe certain behaviors, live in the prescribed manner, perhaps simply do more good than harm, all will be well. We assure ourselves that we will go to “a better place.”
Yet the one true God tells us the same thing He told the people of Israel more than three thousand years ago: Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord! Jesus told Nicodemus, “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” (John 3:14-15).
It didn’t make sense to Nicodemus, at least not right away, and it didn’t make sense to many of those who followed Jesus. Surely there was something they must do! They asked Him directly, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent. . . . My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:28-29, 40). In essence, our Lord was saying, “Don’t just do something . . . stand there! Look to Me and live.” Many turned away from following Jesus after that. They refused to believe that salvation is by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone. They had ignored or misread the warning in Proverbs 30:12 that there are “Those who are pure in their own eyes and yet are not cleansed of their filth.” They knew they had been bitten by the serpent, but they believed they could manufacture the anti-venom themselves.
There are millions today who believe the same thing. They have embraced the lie of serpent: “You will not surely die . . . You will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Their hearts thrill to the humanists creed, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” That is the spirit that insists, “Don’t just stand there; do something!”
The Gospel of God is completely counterintuitive. There is nothing we can do to save ourselves except look to Jesus Christ lifted up on cross. That is the Gospel of the One True God, the righteous Judge of all men, who says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”
How is it with you? Have you looked to Jesus? Have you placed your trust in His atoning death on your behalf? If so, you have seen the salvation of the Lord, which He has accomplished for you. Don’t just do something; look and live. There is no other way.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!
For more articles by Dr. Tommy Boland, visit goodnewsfl.org/tommy-boland.