“Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. And they 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 our soul loathes this worthless bread.’ So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.
“Therefore 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.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” Numbers 21:4-9
“[Christ] Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” 1 Peter 2:24
One of the puzzles in this account is why and how God would use the repulsive and poisonous snake to both destroy and save. The beautiful divine conundrum melds curse and cure in one creature, a vital symbol of our Savior. The agent of death becomes the agent of life.
One of the hardest truths to accept, for someone yet untouched by the Spirit, is that they are a vile, depraved sinner. Indeed, since Adam and Eve, not one is born without sin. All have gone astray, fallen short of God’s glory. In a sense, we are all snakes, full of poison. The Israelites were at their worst when God sent the serpents to inflict them, and they pleaded with Moses to ask Him to remove them. In His redemptive economy, instead of eliminating them, He commanded that the serpent become the symbol for the very means of salvation. (Psalm 14:2-3; Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:10-12,23; 1 John 1:8)
Only a perfect Savior of God’s seed could become the perfect sacrifice from woman’s seed, lifted high on the pole of Calvary. It’s as though the Lord said to Israel, and to us, ‘You must see who you are, and who I became for your sake.’ Do we recognize, and are we undone by, our sin and its affront to God? Would we boldly confess, and look to Jesus to be cleansed? (Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 12:1-2)
“‘Tis mystery all! Th’Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine!
‘Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me!” ~Charles Wesley (1738)
Lord, may I ever be amazed at Your perfect provision of Jesus. May I look to you and love you more each day.