HIGHS AND LOWS
Give me a contented heart today, Lord.
Read Numbers 21:1–9
21 When the Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev, heard that Israel was coming along the road to Atharim, he attacked the Israelites and captured some of them. 2 Then Israel made this vow to the Lord: “If you will deliver these people into our hands, we will totally destroy their cities.” 3 The Lord listened to Israel’s plea and gave the Canaanites over to them. They completely destroyed them and their towns; so the place was named Hormah.
The Bronze Snake
4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”
6 Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
8 The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectWho’s complaining? Why? What is the punishment? How are they saved?
This chapter marks a turning point in the wilderness years. The children of those who walked out of Egypt now begin their battle against the Canaanites (3). They do so in obedience to God. And significantly, they win their first battle at Hormah. This was the same battlefield where, 40 years before, so many of their fathers died in the days following their refusal to enter the Promised Land (Num. 14:45). So things are looking up!
But the detour in verse 4 takes them around Edom (Num. 20:14–21). It takes them south towards the Red Sea, away from the Promised Land and towards Egypt. Sometimes God’s guidance is perplexing!
But rather than trust God, the people are impatient and once again grumble about everything (4b,5). And God’s response once again is to send judgment, this time in the form of deadly snakes. But he also gave them a way to be saved.
This metal snake on a pole was not magic. But it was a visual picture of faith. If you were bitten, you just had to look and God would heal you. It almost seems too easy! But if you didn’t trust the salvation God provided and didn’t look, you would die.
Faith is simply looking to Jesus and trusting what he has done. Can you accept God’s free gift of salvation through grace?
Praise God for all he has done for you!
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