Wednesday, June 30, 2010

City Of Evil (2005) "Sidewinder"

[reprinted as written by Avenged Sevenfold]

I slide through the wasteland that's my world
My hunger takes your life, preyed on to keep me alive, yeah
Mercy's all that you need, mercy's empty in me

Can't you feel the poison rising out of the morning and clear through the night
You can feel my strength destroy you straight to the heart from the venomous bite

That's right I shed my skin tonight but my fangs are hard to hide
And you know that you're going to die, yeah
Mercy's all that you need, mercy's empty to me

Can't you feel the poison rising out of the morning and clear through the night
You can feel my strength destroy you straight to the heart from the venomous bite
I can't regret, can't escape decisions made for me, no control
Fire that burns and never dies, wrapped around I'll bury my fangs inside

Making my way through the night you're still in my sight
You're runnin' away cause you know you can't hide
My instincts are cold blooded hate; to you I'm the bearer of fate
Wrong place and now the wrong time, now terror is all that you'll find

Can't you feel the poison rising straight to the heart of the venomous bite
Can't you feel the poison rising out of the morning and clear through the night
You can feel my strength destroy you straight to the heart from the venomous bite
I can't regret, can't escape decisions made for me, no control
Fire that burns and never dies, wrapped around I'll bury my fangs inside

Stay inside tonight - you're out there all alone
Vanish from my sites - venomous control
You won't make it right - my appetite has grown
Lost the final fight - no love will be shown

When asked what he was thinking about when he wrote this piece, the poet responded, "Sidewinder was basically just to paint a picture of human greed and human nature in the form of a snake. Sliding through the desert, hunting and killing, doing what feels natural. I compared it to a snake because I feel sometimes society makes us hide our human nature and we get punished for natural feelings and instincts."

Sidewinder was a canny choice. Depicting human nature as a snake brings in the imagery of what John the apostle called, in his Revelation, "that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan." John was referring to the being which enticed Eve clear back in Genesis, at the dawn of time, a creature described as being "more crafty than any other beast." By aligning with the serpent, Adam's and Eve's natures did become like that Sidewinder of old.

God brought that association into focus during the exodus of His people, when the Hebrews were emigrating from Egypt to Canaan, about four thousand years ago.

They had just won a big battle. As so often happens after the excitement of a victory, the Hebrews were feeling all pumped up and full of themselves. But now they had to walk around Edom, per God's instructions, and it must have seemed like a tiresome and unnecessary chore, especially when they were so close to the border of Canaan, only to have to go backwards to get around the unfriendly Edomites (even if they were brothers). As Moses related the story,

The people became irritable and cross as they traveled. They spoke out against God and Moses: "Why did you drag us out of Egypt to die in this godforsaken country? No decent food; no water—we can't stomach this stuff any longer."

Their impatience revealed a lack of love and a sense of entitlement. They were resentful of God protecting Edom, the unchosen, unfriendly people, and making the Hebrews, the chosen ones, take the longer harder way around. Their resentment sucked all the joy of anticipation out of this part of their journey. Instead of being excited about all the victories that lay ahead, being just months away from their life-long dream, they were poisoning their victory with complaining and being resentful.

The Hebrews were also tired of traveling, and even though Edom was arid, there was water in there, and good food. Now these people had no idea what had been left behind in Egypt. They were just kids, if they had even been born yet, when the exodus had begun thirty-eight years before. But all their lives they had listened to their parents constantly compare their current circumstances with Egypt. Now they were doing the same thing without even knowing what they were really talking about.

What the Hebrews had actually called God’s heavenly bread was “cheat the stomach” food - that’s what those words mean in Hebrew. Now that they saw themselves as he-man soldiers, winning battles, they needed something a bit more hearty than flakes of sparkly white manna.

[God had, for the past forty years, caused a flaky white substance to appear on the ground every morning, enough to feed the entire camp. It tasted sweet, with a hint of coriander, and could be made into both a kind of soup and into bread. They didn't know what this substance was, so they called it "manna," which means "what is it?" in Hebrew. All they did know is that God made it happen, and that it was so nourishing and strengthening they never needed any other kind of food.]

What they didn’t realize is that they were showing contempt for a lot more than God’s grace in making sure they always had food. Thousands of years later Jesus' follower, John, explained that these people were showing contempt for God’s true Bread from Heaven, the Messiah. He was quoting Jesus Himself, Who referred to Himself as being the true manna.

There are a lot of layers in this story. First, God’s discipline of His people was going to illustrate the people’s own poisonous pride, sense of entitlement, resentment and complaining attitude with the burning poisonous venom of snakes. Moses continued,

So God sent poisonous snakes among the people; they bit them and many in Israel died.

Wrapped up in the idea of snakes was the story of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, with his deceiving lies: You deserve better than this, you should be in charge of your own life, God is holding back on you.

The people had rejected the Bread of Heaven, they wanted bread grown from the earth. But God showed them that rejecting the Bread of Heaven results in death. What came up from the earth were snakes, and nobody escaped being bitten. Evidently there are two types of snakes indigenous to this area of the Middle East which have a venom that causes heat, violent inflammation through the whole body, the skin turns red and creates a terrible thirst. The Israelites were getting a vivid picture of their sin

And the people knew it. They knew God was punishing them for their sin, and here is real spiritual growth in this second generation. Before Moses had a chance to intercede for the people they repented

The people came to Moses and said, "We sinned when we spoke out against God and you. Pray to God; ask him to take these snakes from us.

Moses prayed for the people."

God’s way of salvation was not going to be instantaneous. The people had rejected their Bread from Heaven, so God gave them another type of Messiah

God said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it on a flagpole: Whoever is bitten and looks at it will live." So Moses made a snake of fiery copper and put it on top of a flagpole. Anyone bitten by a snake who then looked at the copper snake lived.

God didn’t just take the snakes away. They continued to bite the people, and the people who were bitten would continue to die; they would see and feel the full effects of their sin unless they looked at that snake on a stick.

God’s unusual way of deliverance must have raised some questions:

1) What about not making idols? God had already specifically said they were not to make a cast image of any creature or any anything. Yet now Moses was making a shiny, golden looking snake. How could this be different than making an idol? So think about how that snake must have been anchored to the stick. This is the very image Jesus talking about when He referred to Himself as being lifted up (John relayed this story in his gospel). The phrase “lifted up” in Jesus’ day was a euphemism for being crucified.

The snake was either nailed or skewered. God gave His people a visual of the penalty for sin skewered on a pole – just as the Passover lamb was also skewered on a stick once a year. Just as the Lord Jesus Christ, Who became sin, was nailed to the cross.

When the people looked at the snake, they were looking at the result of their own sin. By His grace, God had skewered their sin to a stick, and if they would just believe that God would forgive them, and thank Him for His grace, they would be healed.

2) What about the fact that this was a serpent, the ultimate symbol of evil, due to the serpent in the Garden of Eden? Again, think of the snake nailed to the stick. This was not an image to worship, but to see that God had conquered the serpent and all it stood for: the triumph of sin and its penalty of death was now, in turn, defeated by God Himself. Remember that bronze was what covered the altar, which burnt all the sin sacrifices. God’s power was more powerful than the serpent, which would be overcome by the sacrifice the perfect lamb, God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The people had referred to God’s gracious Bread of Heaven as a worthless food, something that wouldn’t nourish them. They had received a sting instead of a blessing, dying instead of being nourished and kept alive by what they called worthless bread. Now God gave them something to transform their thinking, a symbol of death becoming the source of life and deliverance.

There was no cure for the snake bite. No medicine to take, no therapy to do, no workshops, no bio-feedback loops, no ten step method to recovery. There was only one way to survive the snake bite and live, and that was to look at the bronze snake skewered on a pole. But the power of life was not in the bronze snake, it was in God.

Think of all the layers in this story:
1. Just as every Hebrew was bitten, so all people today are bitten by sin, and succumb to its venom

2. The snake bite was painful and ended in death, just as sin causes untold harm in the world today, and its penalty is death and eternal judgment

3. The only remedy for this condition was to look to God’s picture of redemption, the source of the pain nailed to a pole, just as Jesus, Who became sin for us, was lifted up on a cross

4. No one could save themselves. The only salvation available was what God graciously provided, and if you rejected it, you died, just as today the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way to be reconciled to God and be saved. To reject Jesus is to remain under the penalty of sin.

5. That serpent on the stick had no venom, just as Jesus was Himself without sin. The sinless one became your sin and mine, and all the sin of everyone.

6. As soon as the bitten person looked at the snake, they were saved from physical death, just as the moment you put your faith in Jesus you are made spiritually alive, and are saved from eternal death

7. This remedy was made effective only because of God’s grace, His willingness to forgive, and by God’s supernatural power to heal. In the same way, it is only through God’s gift of belief and faith, what we call grace, that saves today

8. This wasn’t a blanket remedy. Each individual had to look for themselves at the snake, just as today you, personally, must make a decision about what you believe. No one can make that decision for you.

Are you experiencing the negative effects of some sin that has you in it’s grip? An overindulgence in some pleasure, a total focus on self, laziness, a wrong relationship, addiction to something? There are all kinds of solutions out there that claim to help you and me get some temporary relief, and some measure of control over these things. But the only permanent cure is to look to the Lord Jesus Christ to deliver you.

You and I are better off admitting that we’ve got sin, we’ve been bitten by the snake, and that’s why we’re hurting. Because then we’ll look to the Lord for deliverance.

There is something deep and wonderful in God’s response to the Hebrews’ repentance. This new generation (the older generation had all already died in the desert by the time of this story) was spiritually more sensitive, closer to God. They were in a better place spiritually than the previous generation. They were ready to have their faith built up. They were prepared to understand what it meant to look by faith, and believe in God’s grace.

The truth is, looking to Jesus, the rescuer, in faith is the only way to be delivered from sin and death

Where are you right now in your own faith journey? How spiritually sensitive are you, how spiritually responsive to God? Is something really hard happening in your life right now? Maybe God is doing something deep and wonderful in you, too, maybe you are ready to have your faith built up.

Maybe that's why the poet brings this thought out, throughout his song,

Mercy's all that you need

God has the mercy, not the serpent, who would have to say mercy's empty to mee

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