In Numbers 21:4-9, we read the account where the Israelites set out from Mount Hor by the Red Sea to go around the land of Edom, but the people became impatient and spoke out against God and Moses. They complained about not having food and water, calling the food they had worthless, and loathing it. As a result, the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and many died. When the people came to Moses and repented of their sin, Moses prayed, and the LORD commanded Moses to make a fiery serpent. Numbers 21:8-9 says, “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.”
The question is, why did God command Moses to make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole as a means of people being rescued from the serpents that were sent among them as judgment? God was using this event to teach the people of Israel about judgment and faith. Firstly, the image of the serpent on the pole was symbolic. It was there only to represent or be symbolic of the snakes that God used in this specific instance to punish the Israelites because of their unbelief in God. Secondly, God was teaching them to have faith in God, regardless of their situation. For the Israelites, it may not have made sense to look at the bronze serpent for healing. How is that possible, they may have thought? But they had to believe in God and obey in faith for healing. Believing would provide a way to save them.
Healing came upon the Israelites only if they looked on the bronze serpent, and anyone who did not do this as commanded died from the serpent. This event was a foreshadowing of Christ and how we, as sinners, can be saved from the judgment of God due to sin. In John 3, Jesus teaches Nicodemus about salvation. Jesus says in John 3:14-15, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
Like the people of Israel, you must realise that there is a problem. Judgment came upon the Israelites for their rebellion, and anyone whom the serpents had bitten would die. Likewise, all the people in this world are in sin, rebelling against God. We must recognise this “sin” poison in our life and know that God will judge all sinners. Due to the curse of sin, death is upon all people, but at the right time, God provided a remedy to this problem because all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23;4:4-7). The only way to heal from this poison of sin and its resulting judgment is to look at the remedy God provided. According to John 3:14-15, just like Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, the Son of Man was lifted on the cross, and whoever looks upon Him and believed in Him will be forgiven of their sin, released from the power of sin, and receive eternal life in Christ. Amen!
Not only was Christ lifted on the cross for the sins of the world, but He rose again victoriously over sin and death and was lifted up to heaven. He will one-day return with His righteous judgment, and anyone who does not look upon Christ by faith, through grace, will remain under the judgment of God and lost in their sin. We must be born again, which is only possible by God’s sovereign work in our lives, by the faith He provides, and by His Holy Spirit, keeping us in Him so that we may be in a love relationship with Christ, doing all for His glory, being renewed day by day. Amen!