February 27, 2015
“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.” Numbers 21:7
The people had sinned. They grumbled against Moses’ and ultimately against God’s leading, guiding, and provision. In Romans 6:23 Paul tells us that “…the wages of sin is death…” So, God sent fiery serpents into the camp and everyone that was bitten by them died. In Numbers 21:7, the people come to Moses, confess their sin and ask Moses to pray for relief from the consequences of their sin.
Notice that their request is very specific. “Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” They had in mind what their relief would be. But God had a different plan:
“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.” Numbers 21:8-9
It seems very strange. The people ask for the problem to be removed, and Moses makes a pole with a bronze snake on it! Then he tells the people that if you are bitten by a snake, look at the pole with the snake on it and you’ll be healed! This sounds preposterous! How can looking at a snake on a pole heal anyone? I wonder if there were some who never looked at the pole and died in their disbelief.
This is a lot like us, isn’t it? We pray for something specific. “God, provide the money to pay the bill, take away the stress, remove the cancer.” Then God does something completely different. He does something that requires faith. It would be too easy for us if God removed our problems without us having faith in His provision no matter what it is. Often times we want God to change the circumstance in our life without changing us. But this isn’t how God works.
Bronze is a symbol of judgment. The people were bitten by sin and their judgment was death. However, if they had faith that the bronze serpent hung on a pole could save them, then the penalty of their sin would be taken away.
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:14-15
Jesus took our sin away as He hung on the cross. All we have to do is have faith that His death can save us from the penalty of sin. If that is the case, then we have eternal life guaranteed. It seems absurd, right? How can having faith in a man dying for us 2,000 years ago save us from our sin and give us life? The same way that those bitten by snakes in the middle of the desert were saved. It is by faith. Look to Jesus on the cross and live.