LOOK AND LIVE!
Lord, teach me never to complain.
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[a] 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.[b]
The Bronze Snake
4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea,[c] 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.
a Numbers 21:2 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them; also in verse 3.
b Numbers 21:3 Hormah means destruction.
c Numbers 21:4 Or the Sea of Reeds
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.
“There is life for a look at the crucified one, / there is life at this moment for thee” (Amelia M. Hull, 1812–1884).
Aaron’s death at the end of the last chapter leads us to think of Jesus. This story, perhaps the most famous of any in Numbers, takes us straight to him. On the night when Nicodemus visits the Savior (John 3), it is to this event that the Lord Jesus turns as he illustrates arguably the greatest Gospel verse in the New Testament: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Here in Numbers, again the people are found complaining—moaning about God’s provision and wishing they were back in Egypt. And again God’s patience is tested. This time he acts, sending fiery serpents among the people. Many of the snake bites prove fatal. The people are quickly brought to their senses and urge Moses to act as their intermediary, to pray that God might take the snakes away. But what God does is not quite what they expect. Moses is instructed to make a replica snake that is to be lifted high in full view of the people. All who simply look at the serpent will be healed; those who refuse will die. Moses obeys and the bronze snake is lifted up—and it works! Just one look, and people are healed. Nothing more is needed. Nothing less is sufficient.
“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,” the Savior tells the enquiring Nicodemus, “that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (John 3:14,15). This problem acted out on a local scale in the wilderness some fourteen centuries before Christ gets repeated all over the world in every generation. God, his law, and his provision are routinely rejected. His sovereignty is challenged and his holiness affronted by every sinful act. Only God can provide the solution. He does so through Christ coming in the likeness of sinful man. He remains lifted up. We just have to look to him in faith—and salvation and life are ours! Praise him!
The promise of salvation by looking to the Lord extends to all the world. Pray today for those you know who are spreading the Gospel in other lands.
Lord, we thank You that You have provided a remedy for the spiritual snakes assaulting us all over the world today.