From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 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. 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.
As I read through Numbers this morning I saw that the Israelites were back to their old grumbling ways. Their detour around the land of Edom put them in an extended period of hiking through some unpleasant terrain and they were tired of eating the same ol’ manna every single day. They were missing the “good old days” of what life was like back in Egypt.
In response to the people speaking out against Moses and God, the Lord sent fiery serpents among the Israelites and people were dropping dead left and right. It doesn’t take the Israelites long to correlate the presence of the poisonous, deadly snakes and their grumbling against the Lord. In response they appeal to Moses to intercede on their behalf (as he has so faithfully done many times before) and ask the Lord to get rid of the snakes.
Moses, being the faithful shepherd that he is, falls on his face before God and makes his appeal for the people. The Lord, being slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, listens. Not only does He listen, but He provides a remedy to the situation. Moses is told to fashion a serpent out of bronze and place it on a staff that may be raised high. If a serpent bites someone, that person may look at the bronze serpent and live.
Some things I noticed while reading through this scripture:
- The people didn’t acknowledge their sin until after they began experiencing the consequences of their sin. Even the consequences of sin is evidence of God’s grace. It is a gift when God, through the Holy Spirit, awakens our conscience and gives us awareness of when we have sinned. Whereas the enemy may use this awareness to shame us, the Lord does this in His kindness that we might be lead to repentance and draw near to Him.
- After realizing the consequences of their sin, the people appeal for mercy. What an appropriate response. Sometimes our pride interferes with our ability to do this. This morning I find myself especially grateful that the curtain has been torn in two and I have been ushered in to the throne room through the blood of Christ. I do not need to go through a mediator like Moses or a high priest. 1 Timothy reminds us that “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given fat the proper time.“
- In the midst of suffering, God’s grace is sufficient. I found it interesting that God doesn’t comply with the request to remove the serpents, the cause of the Israelite’s suffering. Rather, He provides a remedy for their suffering. God knew that the root cause of their issues wasn’t the serpents. It was the fact that they didn’t trust God and were not walking by faith. The people would still have to live with the consequence of their sin – the serpents and their venomous bites – but they now had a remedy that would allow them to survive the bites and live. It required that they exercise faith and obey God’s command by looking to the bronze serpent that was lifted high for all to see. This reminds me of a quote I captured from my pastor’s message this past Sunday; “being outside the will of God is worse than being enjoying His presence in the midst of the crucible”.
The wages of sin is death but God, in His great mercy and compassion, has offered to us a remedy. Of course we do not look to an uplifted bronze serpent. We fix our eyes upon Jesus who was uplifted on a cross to provide the remedy for our sins – once and for all. Continue to look upon Him – the author and perfecter of our faith. Amen.