I read the One Year Bible. I have for a long time. What gets me is that no matter how many times I read through the Bible, I always find something that I want to look up and get a deeper understanding of. Today was no exception. I read about some snakes. It is a brief passage in Numbers chapter 21:
The Bronze Snake
4 Then the people of Israel set out from Mount Hor, taking the road to the Red Sea to go around the land of Edom. But the people grew impatient with the long journey, 5 and they began to speak against God and Moses. “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?” they complained. “There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this horrible manna!”
6 So the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people, and many were bitten and died. 7 Then the people came to Moses and cried out, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take away the snakes.” So Moses prayed for the people.
8 Then the Lord told him, “Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole. All who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!” 9 So Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed!
The first thing that stuck out to me is “the people grew impatient with the long journey.” Wasn’t it just 8 chapters ago that God brought them to the Promised Land and they chose not to enter into it. They had a lack of faith.
30 Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” 32 And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it aremen of great stature. 33 There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight” (Numbers 13).
I LOVE Caleb. I wish I was like Caleb. I have to admit, I fear I would probably have been more like everyone else. I am so easily influenced to fear and worry. That is something I will work on–steps of faith. But, the point is, they didn’t have to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, if they had believed the God who parted the Red Sea, who gave them manna every day, who burst forth rivers from within a rock, they could have walked into the land and left the ground littered with 13 foot giants.
They are very unhappy, and they wanted to blame it all on Moses. Of course they were happy to run out of oppression, carrying off the Egyptian gold. But now they are looking back with longing. “If only we had stayed, making bricks, having to murder our sons, as slaves.” I do get it. It was probably difficult living in tents in the dessert, with your children for 40 years. But it was easier for them, being less accustomed to the conveniences of running water, toilets, and technology than we are. They also did not have to work fields, make bricks, hunt, etc. Their food was delivered to them every day, miraculously. And the Lord covered them with a cloud, to protect them from the scorching heat. Aside from that, they also had time with their family, time to relax, time to worship God, and also time to complain. Instead of realizing that they were on the very brink of an amazing work that God was accomplishing for their future descendants, and therefore teaching their children to always worship and thank the LORD. They complained.
Maybe they were remembering the fruit of the promised land. Maybe they were regretting their decision. Oh, they did regret it, and they tried to enter it in their flesh and God was no longer with them. He wanted a people who walked by faith. Maybe they were dreaming of the land flowing with milk and honey, that should have been theirs. And because they messed that up, in rebellion they complained.
“We hate this horrible manna.”
We hate what God is giving us.
It is not enough.
“Pray that the Lord will take away the snakes.” The Lord sent fiery serpents into the camp. I like this, it implies that before they complained about how God was taking care of them, that He was ALSO keeping fiery serpents OUT of the camp. He was giving them a protection that they didn’t even think about. I am sure that God does miracles every day that we don’t even see. How many times could we have gotten in a car accident, had an emergency, or been close to death–and God intervened, and we didn’t even KNOW IT.
THE BRONZE SERPENT
The Lord told Moses to make a bronze serpent and have everyone who is bitten look at it and they will not die. I will be honest. This passage really has bugged me, especially when you look it up in a commentary and the scholar will say that the serpent represents Jesus on the cross. NOOOO!!!!! The serpent never represents Jesus!!!!! The serpent always represents Satan/evil.
But it IS connected to the cross. Even Jesus mentions it to Nicodemus:
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
that whosoever believeth may in him have eternal life” (John 3:14,15).
“Oh, there are deep and terrible things here! From the beginning to the end of the Bible the serpent is ever and always the symbol of a curse, of the judgment of God. You know that from the very first mention of the serpent in the Bible. This serpent lifted up in the wilderness was the symbol of the judgment of God. The judgment and curse of God which rested upon the rebellious people were transferred to that serpent. It was transfixed to the cross, carrying the curse and the judgment of God upon itself for the people, and whosoever looked to the serpent was saved.” (Sparks)
You have to LOOK at the curse of sin. When we look at the Cross, we see our SIN (our CURSE) placed onto Jesus. Jesus was therefore bitten by the serpent, as he hung on the cross. God curses the serpent in the garden:
15 And I will put enmity
between you [the serpent] and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he [Messiah] will crush your head,
and you [serpent] will strike his heel.”
Like a snake on the ground, Satan was able to strike at the Lord Jesus, but he could only get as much as his heel, before his head was crushed.
“In using that bit of the Old Testament, the Lord Jesus was only saying: ‘I am going to be made a curse for you. When I am lifted up I shall bear YOUR judgment upon Myself. I shall carry YOUR sins in My body on the tree.’ There is deliverance in Christ crucified from the curse and from the judgment, and whosoever will look shall live. And here comes in the greatest Scripture that we know! “For” (I like the conjunction. Conjunctions are always significant things in the New Testament. When you get a ‘for’, ‘wherefore’ or ‘therefore’, always look all round) “God so loved the world.”
“We so often quote John 3:16 without the context. Ah, what a tremendous thing this is! God has laid on His only-begotten Son the iniquity of us all, allowing Him, His well-beloved Son, to be made a curse for us. Why? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.” You have to lift that out and put it right into Numbers 21, or take Numbers 21 and put it right into John 3:16.” (Sparks).
LOOK TO CHRIST
David Guzik says, “But how can a serpent have a similarity to Jesus? Serpents are often used as pictures of evil in the Bible (Genesis 3:1-5;Revelation 12:9). However, bronze is a metal associated with judgment in the Bible, because bronze must be made by passing through the “fires” of judgment. So, a bronze serpent does speak of evil; but evil having been judged – just as Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us on the cross, and our sin was judged in Jesus. A bronze serpent is a picture of evil judged and dealt with.We would have wanted to diminish our sense of sin, and put the image of a man up on the pole; a man, we might say, is some good and some bad. But a serpent we can more easily see the badness of!”
“Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” Isaiah 45:22
It is interesting to note the C.H. Spurgeon actually placed his faith in God after hearing a sermon on this verse above (Isaiah 45:22) and how it relates to the bronze serpent in Numbers 21. I sometimes take for granted the impact of the dynamic word of God. Here, Spurgeon, an atheist is seeing the cohesion of Scripture. A prophetic verse in Isaiah, accompanied by a symbol in Numbers, and fulfilled with Christ speaking of how He would be lifted up as God actually poured out judgment on sin, through the cross.
It is very heavy and very deep, indeed. The word of God is powerful and living. And it will accomplish it’s purpose, drawing the unbelieving to look at the cross and be saved.
HAVE YOU SEEN IT YET?
I don’t know everyone who visits this blog,
but whoever you are I want to encourage you to look to the cross.
Because right now,
all we have
is a wilderness of snakes.
We live in a cursed and fallen world,
but there is a promised land prepared for us
We need to believe God
in order to enter it.
God has given us enough
He has made a way.
It is only through faith in Jesus.
We can grumble and complain,
that we don’t have it good enough,
and that God could do better for us,
But He has been providing for you already,
In ways you haven’t even thought of.
Come and look.
“He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.”