1 Corinthians 10:9-10 (KJV) – Neither let us tempt Christ as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
Have you ever been bitten by a snake before? I hope not.
Snake bites cause……
• Breathing difficulty
• Low-blood pressure
• Nausea & vomiting
• Numbness and tingling
• Pain at the site of the bite
Our key text records that the children of Israel were bitten and destroyed by serpents.
This morning, I would like to share a message entitled, ‘THE SERPENTINE SPIRIT’.
Thankfully many of us have not been bitten by a literal serpent before. But sadly, spiritually many of us have been bitten by the serpentine spirit. What is that?
(1) THE SERPENTINE SPIRIT
The serpentine spirit is the spirit of the serpent, as the name clearly suggests. And serpents are simply snakes.
What does the Bible say about serpents?
Serpents get plenty of attention in the Bible, which mentions them over 80 times.
Serpents show up in the Pharaoh’s court (Exodus 7:12); in the wilderness (Numbers 21:7); on the Island of Malta (Acts 28:3) and of course, in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1).
They are almost always pictured as LOATHSOME CREATURES, associated with POISON AND CRAFTINESS.
As amoral creatures, serpents are not “evil” in themselves – but they are handy metaphors for EVIL in many passages.
It started in Garden. “The serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made” (Genesis 3:1). In some way, the serpent was used by Satan to lie to Eve and lead her into disobedience. Adam soon followed. As God was meting out punishments, He cursed the serpent: “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:14). Every time we see a snake slithering, limbless on the ground, we have a reminder of the Fall of man and the effects of sin.
Ever since Satan spoke his lies through the serpent to Eve, the serpent has been associated with SIN. The prophet liken the wicked to those who “hatch viper’s eggs” (Isaiah 59:5), to “a serpent [who] has swallowed us…and then has spewed us out” (Jeremiah 51:34), and to those who “lick dust like a snake” (Micah 7:17).
The poetic books speak of evil men making “their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s; the poison of vipers is on their lips” (Psalm 140:3), of liars having “venom…like the venom of a snake, like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears, that will not heed the tune of the charmer, however skillful the enchanter may be” (Psalms 58:4-5) and of wine eventually biting “like a snake and poisoning like viper” (Proverbs 23:32). Jesus and John the Baptist both condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees by calling them a “brood of vipers and snakes” (Matthew 3:7; 12:34; 23:33).
The serpent, as a symbol of Satan, has wound its way around the human heart and filled us with its poison. Try as we might, we cannot rid ourselves of its influence. As the wicked King Macbeth discovered, serpents are hard to kill: “We have scotch’d the snake, not kill’d it”. In fact, by the time we get to the book of Revelation, the serpent in the Garden of Eden has become a raging DRAGON bent on world domination. Following a battle in heaven, “the great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (Revelation 12:9).
The story of our key text about the serpent bites illustrates two aspects of the nature of sin. On the one hand, in the fact that the children of Israel were bitten by fiery serpents, Jesus means to tell us that SIN IS LIKE THE MORTAL BITE OF A POISONOUS SERPENT. Sin bites like a serpent and stings like an adder, inflicting TERRIBLE WOUNDS on man’s soul. To be a sinner means therefore to stand in urgent need of HEALING.
On the other hand, in the fact that the serpents were sent to Israel as a punishment for their murmuring and rebelliousness, Jesus means to tell us that SIN IS REVOLT AGAINST GOD and His good and perfect will. This was surely one element in Nicodemus’s situation: his was a willing blindness. He did not want to see the truth about the necessity for rebirth, because seeing it would have been at that point much too costly a thing for him. He resisted the truth because his heart was in rebellion against God, as much as the children of Israel were.
In summary, the serpentine spirit refers to the loathsome satanic spirit in the form of poison and craftiness, lies, evil, evil men, sin, venomous tongues, revolt and hypocrisy.
(2) WHAT ACTIVATES THE SERPENTINE SPIRIT?
We may not encounter any snake before in our lives but spiritually, many of us are bitten by the serpentine spirit knowingly and even unknowingly.
Today, it behooves us to see from our key text, what is the factor that activates this serpentine spirit, the spirit of Satan in our lives.
What causes the children of Israel in our Key text in verse 9 to be bitten fatally by the snakes?
They put the Lord to test by murmuring and complaining.
What are murmuring and complaining?
Murmuring refers to “inner feelings, thoughts and attitudes; it is half-suppressed or muttered complaint” whereas complaining refers to “the actual outward expression in word and in deed.”
1 Corinthians 10:9 recalls Israel’s complaining about having been brought out into the wilderness. The people complained, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?…..There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this wretched manna” (Numbers 21:5). The people even complained about the manna – the miracle food that God had provided (Exodus 16:31-32). They were testing the Lord’s patience to see what he would do.
Message Bible (v9-10) defines “testing the Lord” as “trying to get Christ to serve us instead of us serving him; they tried it, and God launched an epidemic of poisonous snakes. We must be careful not to stir up discontent; discontent destroyed them.”
Yes! God punished the children of Israel for their complaining attitudes by sending poisonous snakes among them. Many were killed by the snakes.
Those who claim to be God’s people must not test the Lord to see how much we can get away with. Don’t push your “luck” your God with your murmuring attitude.
V10 (NLT) –And don’t grumble as some of them did, for that is why God sent his angel of death to destroy them.
Now in verse 10 of our Key text, it records another incident of grumbling among the children of Israel. This incident of grumbling occurred when the people complained against the leadership of Moses and Aaron – an event that actually happened several times. The phrase, “God sent his angel of death to destroy them” could refer to when the Israelites grumbled at Kadesh, refusing to enter the Promised Land. God punished them with a PLAGUE (Numbers 14:2; 36-37). This could also refer to incident recorded in Numbers 16 when a group rebelled against Moses, and God sent a PLAGUE that killed the rebels. In both cases, the assumption is that the PLAGUE that resulted came through GOD’S ANGEL OF DEATH. This angel is first mentioned in Exodus 12:23 with the last plague that came upon Egypt.
Grumbling against the destiny of God (the land of Canaan) and against God or against his leaders results in divine punishment. God does not take this sin lightly either.
We will die a premature death when we reject God’s “land of Canaan” for us. The children of Israel complained against the giants in the Land of Canaan- too much battle to fight against the giants if we cross over. God wiped out that whole generation that complained at Kadesh about “Land of Canaan.” We must be careful not to have a spirit to “settle” for God’s second best. God’s best is His land of Canaan – His Promised destiny for every one of us and to enter that – we have to fight many giants. Some of us are too lazy and faithless to fight and we prefer to settle on the other side of the “Jordan”. Be careful of this “settled” spirit in your comfort zone. As a church, we must be warned against this settled spirit to just settle in this new sanctuary that God has blessed us with. We must not come to a point as church to just want to settle in our comfort zone –our present church attendance – and refuse to reach out to the squalid barangays to battle against the hardened hearts of the community people, the drug addicts, the drop out and the standbys. Our greatest giant that we have to fight against now is our INERTIA in this hot summer month to go out of the four walls of our church to evangelize, to compel people from the surrounding community to come into the house of God for our May Harvest Month so that the house of God may be filled. May God help us to do this evangelistic outreach without murmuring as you will release the serpentine spirit.
Are you murmuring against God and against your leaders today because you are being pushed by them to enter the Land of Canaan?
(3) WHAT ARE THE ROOT CAUSES?
Murmuring and complaining are directly related to rebellion. If you murmur and complain, it means you do not accept what God has chosen to bring your way. If you murmur and complain, it means that you have no faith that God knows what He is doing and without faith, it is impossible to please God.
You will not murmur if you truly believe that God is in control. You will not murmur if you are thankful for everything that God brings your way. You will not murmur if you are surrendered to God’s will in the name of Christ.
Discontent causes murmuring. We start to grumble when our attention shifts from what we have to what we don’t have. The people of Israel didn’t seem to notice what God was doing for them – setting them free, making them a nation, giving them a new land – because they were so wrapped up in what God wasn’t doing for them. They could think of nothing but the delicious Egyptian food they had left behind.
How about us? Before we judge the children of Israel, let’s look into our own lives first. Many of us are not contented with our homes, our jobs, our church, our country and our government. We keep murmuring and complaining. We can see nothing good. To many of us, everything is bad – our lives are bad and miserable and we want to make it that way for everyone else. Are you murmuring against God for what you do not have?
We are taught to be content with necessities (1 Timothy 6:7-8); what we have (Hebrews 13:5); our lot (Phil 4:11) and God’s way (Luke 5:5).
Selfish people want their way and do not like it one bit if they do not get it, therefore they murmur.
In Jude 16, the Bible is describing the individuals who will be judged at the coming of Christ. Verse 15 gave a general description of them when it spoke of their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed. Verse 16 gives the detail of what these ungodly deeds are.
Jude 16 (Amp) – These are inveterate murmurers (grumblers) who complain [of their lot in life], going after their own desires [controlled by their passions]; their talk is boastful and arrogant, [and they claim to] admire men’s person and pay people flattering compliments to gain advantage.
Inveterate means “firmly established by long continuance as a habit and practice”. Therefore inveterate murmurer means habitual murmurers, those who have made murmuring as their lifelong habitual practice.
(4) WHAT ARE THE OUTCOMES OF MURMURING AND COMPLAINING?
Murmuring causes division among God’s people. When a murmurer murmurs, he/she is trying to get people to become sympathetic to his point of view and antagonistic toward the other point of view. Proverbs 6:19 tells us that one of the seven things God hates is “one who sows discords among brethren” and murmuring does that.
Bill Johnson writes in one of his books, “People with resentment attract people with complaints. People who live bitter lives are puppets of the devil. They attract demonic chaos that brings distortion. Bitterness seldom exists without reasoning. So the evil one loves to provide the justification to remain bitter. What better way to sustain what is wrong than to immerse it in the atmosphere of justified resentment? And so the murmurers and complainers are drawn into the lives of the bitter. When this happens, it is more than a natural law of like attracting like through mutual interest. It now becomes a spiritual law, where the internal values of the heart help to build alliances with the invisible world. In this case, the alliance is with the demonic (serpentine spirit). The bitterness and resentment is so vile that it contaminates entire groups in a very short period of time……The one sure way to separate friends and to destroy the beauty of unity is to feed suspicion. The wrong attitudes in their hearts attract information that confirms what they have discerned thus furthering the divide between those who should be illustrating love, mercy, and unity. The heart is a beautiful thing, when protected. But it can be vile when the enemy is allowed to sow seeds of discord into it……It is wisdom to recognize what you attract into your world. Obviously, not everything that comes to you in life is because you attracted it. But if it is fitting for us to become aware of unusual patterns – not for the purpose of shame or condemnation, but for the purpose of bringing about any needed life changes. Those patterns just might indicate something in our hearts that we have been blinded to. If it is gossip, turn away from it the next time it comes. If it is dirty jokes, learn to pull out of such conversations. Make it clear as to what you value if you are questioned. Reset the standard of what you are willing to listen to, and heaven will back up your commitment and make sure you get a steady diet of things eternal.”
Murmuring and grumbling cause unneeded stress.
A research conducted by John Hopkins University reads, “Irritability, Griping and Anger Hasten Heart Diseases.” The article says irritable, complaining, griping, angry individuals are 500% more likely to have an early heart attack. Be careful what you speak because you will eat the fruit from your lips.
LOSS OF FAITH
Murmuring and complaining never increases our faith. Conversely it deteriorates our faith because we don’t believe that God has our best interest at heart.
Philippians 2:13-15 – For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.
When Christians murmur and complain, unbelievers cannot see the bright light of Christ in us.
The worse is we release the serpentine spirit to bite our lives and the Destroyer to destroy our lives.
LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT SOME OF THE PHYSICAL EFFECTS OF SERPENT BITES UPON SEVERAL PEOPLE.
The pictures are gruesome, aren’t they?
Now I want you to picture metaphorically your marriage, your family, your spouse, your boss, your job; your school, your parents, your study; your church; your country as those parts of the anatomy that you have seen in the pictures that are bitten by serpents. They are swollen, bruised, infected, paralyzed, rotten, consumed and deformed.
Each time we murmur against God, against our leaders, against our lot and against people around us, we are hurting them like those snake bites shown in the pictures. And sooner or later, you who have been backbiting people with your murmuring and complaining will also have your fair share of being bitten by the evil serpentine spirit.
James 5:9- Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold the Judge is standing right at the door.
Galatians 5:15- But if you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another.
Today, is your marriage paralyzed because of your constant murmuring against your spouse? Is your relationship with someone cut off because of the venom released by the serpentine spirit of murmuring? Snake bite release the venom that cuts off the blood circulation to that part of the body being bitten. Are you cutting off the life of the Spirit to an area of your life by your venomous spirit of murmuring and complaining?
Today, we have unconsciously activated the serpentine spirit in many areas of our lives. We have been deceived by the crafty old serpent, Satan, to think that murmuring and complaining, backbiting and evil talking are non-consequential; they are not big sins like fornication, adultery and idolatry- so we think; not knowing our heart is actually making alliance with the demonic realm to release the satanic venom to short-circuit our relationship with God and with people around us. We can’t move and function normally if our lives are bitten by serpents. Things will not be normal again and if we don’t repent and change our hearts and life before God, fatality will come in – more brokenness and darkness will enshroud our lives. Do you want to continue to feed this serpentine spirit in our lives?
Psalms 44:19 (KJV) – Though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death.
By your habitual and perpetual murmuring and complaining, you are empowering the serpentine spirit that is released upon your life till it becomes a dragon. And there- in the place of dragons, God will break you sorely and cover you with the shadow of death. To “be broken sorely in the place of dragons” is to have our own life devastated and falling in ruins. “To be covered with the shadow of death” is to experience spiritual and physical death. Do you want that?
How big is the serpentine spirit now in your life?
(5) HOW TO OVERCOME THE SERPENTINE SPIRIT?
Do you want to destroy this serpentine spirit that is activated in your life?
Hebrews 13:5-6 – Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
LOOK TO OUR SERPENT CRUSHER
Fiery serpents were sent among the children of Israel when they tested the Lord by murmuring and many suffered fatality from their bites. A confession of sin on the part of those who had spoken against the Lord and against Moses enabled Moses to make intercession for them. This was heard and answered, and Moses was instructed to “make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole.” Moses made it of bronze, holding it up as instructed so that the people could see it. Those who looked upon this bronze replica were healed of the serpent bites and lived.
If today, your lives have been bitten by serpent because of your murmuring and complaining, time is of the essence, if life is to be saved. This is the aspect of sin that calls forth the compassion and pity of God and the tender care of the great Physician Himself. First you have to confess that you have sinned against God and your leaders. Then you need to engage the help of Jesus Christ in your battle against this serpentine spirit quickly.
Thankfully from the beginning, God has promised us a Savior. Speaking to the serpent in the Garden of Eden 2000 years ago, God says, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15). God promised that the Seed of the woman would crush the serpent’s head – a prophecy that the virgin-born Son of God would win a decisive victory over the power of the devil.
Jesus said that He had come to save us all from the serpent’s bite: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (John 3:14-15).
The Lord Jesus is our SERPENT-CRUSHER. He is our DRAGON-SLAYER. And one day, when He establishes His kingdom on this earth, all of creation will be restored to its original, harmless state – snakes included. “The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:8-9).
The provision God made for Israel illustrates the great gospel provision. The significance of the uplifted bronze serpent is that bronze speaks of sin judged (the bronze altar in the tabernacle where the burnt offering for sin was made) and as Matthew Henry puts it, “That which cured was shaped in the likeness of that which wounded.” This answers the question why the children of Israel must look to the very serpent that bit them in order to be healed. As Israel was given this symbol of substitutionary atonement – their sin, represented by the bronze serpent, was cursed and cancelled- so also Christ, for our sakes, and for our healing, was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, and made sin for us, and was lifted up from the earth, when He bore in His own body the judgment of a holy God upon sin. And since judgment cannot come where judgment has already been, we are bidden to look upon the uplifted Christ for our salvation. As the old hymn puts it, “There is life for a look at the Crucified One.”
Luke 10:18-19 (KJV)- “And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”
Many of our lives have been bitten by serpents. Venom has been circulating in our system and environment. We thought our lives have been assailed by demonic forces FROM WITHOUT not knowing that this demonic force known as the serpentine spirit is activated by our murmuring and complaining FROM WITHIN. We trivialize these sins; we downplay them; we disregard them, thinking it is in our human nature to complain and murmur. Not knowing that these very wrong attitude has unleased the serpents from the demonic realm to bite us and ultimately to destroy our lives and destiny.
Let’s today rise up and trample this serpentine spirit by looking up at Christ our serpent crasher and our dragon slayer. But first, you must look into your heart and repent of all your rebellion, discontent, selfishness and wickedness. Christ is your serpent crusher and your atonement. You shall be healed and forgiven when you look to Him as such today.
PREACHED AT ETAB 1ST ENG SV ON 17 APL 2016