Read: Numbers 21:4-9
Consider: As so often happened with the Israelites, they complained against God and Moses. We read about the Israelites: They travelled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go round Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way (Numbers 21:1). So what was their complaint this time? The substance of their complaint was: 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! (21:5). This was not the first time they had grumbled, nor would it be the last.
Having grumbled against God, the Israelites suffered the consequences when God sent venomous snakes among them. Although this was God’s punishment for their rebellion, he did provide a way for them to be saved. In Numbers 21:8-9 we read: 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’. So Moses made a bronze snake and put it on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived. Notice that while God punished the Israelites, he also provided a means whereby they could be saved. There was nothing magical about the bronze snake itself. Its power rested purely on the fact that it was God’s remedy, to save the Israelites from punishment. They only had to follow God’s instructions to be saved from death. While they only had to look at the snake to be saved, they were in reality looking to God for salvation.
Move forward several hundred years and we find the Israelites had turned the bronze snake into something that was to be revered and venerated. When Hezekiah came to the throne we read that: In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, Hezekiah son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign.
He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done. He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan) (2 Kings 18:1, 3-4).
The bronze snake Moses erected in the Israelite camp was a foreshadow of what was to come in Jesus Christ. He came to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. Notice that while God punishes sin, he has also provides a means of escape.
There is an old hymn entitled ‘Look and Live’ written by William A Ogden in 1887. The hymn contains this verse:
Life is offered to you, hallelujah!
Eternal life thy soul shall have,
If you’ll only look to Him, hallelujah
Look to Jesus who alone can save.
Pray: Father, we thank you that in the wilderness you gave the Israelites a foretaste of the means of salvation; something that would come to pass many years later in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Amen