Spiders and Snakes

Spiders and Snakes

Have you ever been caught lying? Joe the Butcher had one chicken left when his preacher came into the store. The preacher said, “I need a good size chicken for dinner.”

Joe said: “I have just what you need”. He went to the freezer and brought out the last chicken, the one nobody wanted, and put it on the scale. Joe said, "This one is 2 pounds 3 ounces." The preacher said, "It looks sort of small, do you have anything else?"

Joe took the chicken back into the freezer and came back with the same chicken, the only one he had. He put it on the scale and this time said, "This one is 3 pounds and five ounces. But since you’re my preacher, I’m going to let you have it for the same price as the other one."

The preacher said, "Well thank you, but come to think of it, the way my boys eat, I better buy both chickens”.

There is another story about a preacher who announced he was going to preach on lies next Sunday. In preparation for the message, he asked the congregation to read Mark 17. The following week he asked how many had read Mark 17. One by one, people raised their hand until most of the congregation had their hands up. Then the preacher announced that Mark only has 16 chapters.

Sadly, lying is one of the most common sins practiced by “Christians”. Are you guilty? It is a serious matter. Lying leads to more violent sins and a breakdown of society. Listen carefully to:

Isaiah 59:1-15 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness. No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity. They hatch adders’ eggs; they weave the spider’s web; he who eats their eggs dies, and from one that is crushed a viper is hatched. Their webs will not serve as clothing; men will not cover themselves with what they make. Their works are works of iniquity, and deeds of violence are in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they are swift to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; desolation and destruction are in their highways. The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace. Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men. We all growl like bears; we moan and moan like doves; we hope for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us. For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities: transgressing, and denying the LORD, and turning back from following our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words. Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice.

In the days of Isaiah, many government leaders, priests, and people of influence chose to deceive the people and themselves with lies. As a result, their society was filled with injustice and unspeakable evil. Those who spoke the truth and departed from evil were despised and persecuted. Unfortunately, what God is saying about Israel can be applied to America today.

Look again at Isaiah 59:3-4 For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness. No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity.

Verse 7 says, “Their feet run to evil, and they are swift to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; desolation and destruction are in their highways.”

This reminds me of people who are in favor of abortion—even up to the day of birth. If the abortion is not successful, they kill the baby after it is born. They tell themselves and others a lie—that the baby is not a person. They call evil good and good evil. Why is this happening?

First of all, we are listening to the wrong people. Now before you excuse yourself from this cause, answer this question: “Do you watch television?” If so, you are listening to the wrong people. WHO we listen to will influence HOW we think and live.

1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”

If we spend time listening to evil people, we will begin to think and act like them. We will begin to accept their standards, EVEN if initially, we don’t believe what they believe.

Dr. James Dobson tells of a team of doctors who conducted an experiment to study the ways in which group pressure influences young people. To accomplish this, they invited 10 teenagers into a room.

The doctors said, “We’re going to hold up some cards at the front of the room. On each card are 3 lines – Line A, Line B and Line C – each of a different length. When we point to the longest line, please raise your hand to show that you know it is longer than the others.” They repeated the directions to be sure everybody understood and then raised the first card and pointed to the top line.

What one student didn’t know was that the other 9 had been secretly informed earlier to vote for the second longest line. In other words, they were told to vote wrongly.

The doctors held up the first card and pointed to Line A, which was clearly shorter than line B. At this point, all 9 students raised their hands. The boy being studied looked around in disbelief. It was obvious that Line B was the longest line, but everybody seemed to think Line A was longer. He later admitted that he thought, “I must not have been listening during the directions. Somehow, I missed the point, and I’d better do what everybody else is doing or they’ll laugh at me.” So he carefully raised his hand with the rest of the group.

Then the researchers explained the directions again: “Vote for the longest line; raise your hand when we point to the longest line.”

It couldn’t have been more simple! Then they held up the 2nd card, and again, 9 people voted for the wrong line. The confused fellow became more tense over his predicament, but eventually he raised his hand with the group once again. Over and over he voted with the group, even though he knew they were wrong.

This young man was not unusual. In fact, more than 75 percent of the young people tested behaved that same way. That is why many Christian kids, who go to college, lose their faith in God. They are listening to the wrong people and succumbing to peer pressure.

Don’t be deceived, bad company spoils good morals. Who you listen to WILL determine how you think and how you live. It will influence the choices you make in your life.

The second bad choice we make is choosing to play with spiders and snakes.

Back in the 70’s, there was a song about adolescent love. The nervous young boy tried to show his affection by teasing his girlfriend with creepy things. She responded, “I don’t like spiders and snakes, and that ain’t what it takes, to love me, like I want to be loved by you.”

Isaiah 59:5-6 They hatch adders’ eggs; they weave the spider’s web; he who eats their eggs dies, and from one that is crushed a viper is hatched. Their webs will not serve as clothing; men will not cover themselves with what they make. Their works are works of iniquity, and deeds of violence are in their hands.

Israel chose to play with spiders and snakes. But God is telling them “that ain’t what it takes to love me, like I want to be loved by you.” God uses this imagery of hatching viper eggs and spinning spider’s webs because it is a graphic depiction of sin and its consequences. Sin bites us and we attempt to cover it up, but our cover is like a spider web. People can see right through it.

Nevertheless, many people lie and justify lying if it accomplishes what they want.

Isaiah 59:4 No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity.

We are playing with spiders and snakes when we accept dishonesty because it accomplishes what we want. We hear empty arguments and repeated lies every day if we listen to the news and to politicians. They don’t even try to hide it anymore. They know if they tell a lie often enough, people will begin to believe it is the truth. The lie will cause people to doubt the truth and begin thinking, if everyone else believes it, then I must be wrong.

Adolf Hitler said, “The receptivity of the masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan.”

When he was still a powerful media spokesman, Dan Rather tried to explain why he liked a politician who had been caught in several lies. Rather said, "I think you can be an honest person and lie about any number of things." In other words, he was willing to accept lying if the person agreed with his philosophy.

Jesus said, when people believe dishonesty is acceptable, they have played with the biggest snake in the pit.

John 8:44, “You belong to your father, THE DEVIL, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

People lie because they put their own interests or egos above the interests, feelings, or lives of others. They lie to gain control over the people around them. They lie to cover their sins. They prefer lies to truth because the truth tells them they are wrong.

Even our own heart lies to us sometimes. Jeremiah 17:9-10 The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”

In other words, we are capable of deceiving ourselves, but not God. One philosopher noted, “The first and worst fraud of all is to lie to oneself. All sin is easy after that.”

That’s why it’s critical for us to read the Word daily and pray as David did in Psalms 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts. And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

This image of snakes in Isaiah 59 reminds me of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. It was the serpent who told a lie to Eve and deceived her. Instead of walking away from the serpent, she listened to the snake, believed what it said, and committed sin. When we listen to lies, we are listening to the same serpent—the devil, the father of lies.

There is another incident when the Israelites encountered snakes. They had crossed the Red Sea but they were wandering in the desert because they believed the lie that they could not overcome the people in the Promised Land. Living in the desert was hard and they began to long for the “comforts” they once had in Egypt.

Numbers 11:4-6 The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, "If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost— also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!

This was a lie. To listen to these folks, you’d have thought they’d been living at a resort in Egypt with food being served down at the pool and those little mints being placed on the pillows at night. But life was never easy for the Israelites in Egypt. They were slaves. And their existence was so miserable they literally cried out day and night to God.

The Israelites in Moses’ day made the same bad choices that we make today. First, they listened to the wrong people. They listened to “the rabble”. Second, they embraced the lie that life was better back in Egypt. As a result, they engaged in sinful behavior and attitudes. Their hearts became rebellious and ungrateful. So, whenever they faced danger, hunger, or thirst they complained and they complained loudly.

Numbers 21:5-9 And the people spoke against God and against 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 worthless food.” Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

Back in Isaiah 59:2 the Jews were told “but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

If that’s all we saw of God in Scripture, we would be filled with despair and hopelessness. All of us have lied and believed lies. Our society has accepted lies and discarded the truth. God would be justified to hide His face from us and turn a deaf ear to our cries. But God tells Isaiah the rest of the story in this chapter—that He has a plan for justice, redemption, and salvation.

Isaiah 59:16-21 He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, so will he repay, wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies; to the coastlands he will render repayment. So they shall fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives. “And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the LORD. “And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the LORD, “from this time forth and forevermore.”

God’s plan is to heal His people who repent. In the desert, the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.”

So, in spite of their sinful hearts, God brought healing when they repented and looked upon the bronze serpent that had been placed upon a wooden pole. The serpent became the emblem of all their wickedness that had brought death into their camp. It was as if their sin had been placed upon that wooden pole to heal them from the consequences of their sin.

Jesus referred to this event in John 3:14-21And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Jesus was placed upon a wooden cross and lifted up for all to see. When we look at Jesus on the cross and believe He took our punishment and death, we are healed from the consequences of sin. When we look upon Jesus on the cross, we are forgiven and given eternal life. And when we look upon Jesus on the cross, we see the need to die to our sins and the need for Jesus to take charge of our lives. If you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God who atoned for your sin upon the cross, publicly confess your faith, repent of your sin, and give your life to Jesus by dying to yourself in baptism. Then you will be healed from the consequences of sin, raised a new creation in Christ, born of the Holy Spirit.