Jesus as the Bronze Serpent in the Book of Numbers

30 Aug

Read Numbers 21:4-9

“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 on the bronze serpent he lived.” Num 21:9

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” John 3: 14, 15

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Cor. 5:21

“Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” Isa.45:22

“He…broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it; calling it Nehushtan.” 2 Kings 18:4

Don’t be too hard on those wandering Israelites. I’m sure we would have complained just as much, if not more. To know you’ll be wandering aimlessly for forty years, without ever laying eyes on your destination! Talk about discouraging! Even though they left a harsh life of slavery, now they were only remembering the good things they left behind. (Ex. 16:3) They remembered the food, water, permanent lodging, variety in their diet, and more than enough flavourful food. Instead they were compiling cookbooks; 101 Ways to Cook Manna.

They had forgotten that this was a miracle. God rained bread on them from Heaven, for forty years, six days a week. The manna did not run out. They always had enough. (Ex. 16:18). Yet at this point they had only begun the steady 40 year diet of manna. They would not eat other food again until they came to the border of Canaan. (Ex. 16:35) Already they were tired of it. They did not appreciate God’s provision. They grumbled to Moses, not realizing they were really complaining to God .

“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 or water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.’” Num. 21:5

Not for the first time, and not for the last time, God disciplined His people. In this case He sent fiery serpents among them and many died of snake bites. As is usually the case, punishment makes you see the error of your ways. They knew they had to approach God through a mediator. Moses intercedes for the people, confessing their sin against God, and imploring Him to stop the punishment. (Num. 21:7)

God could have removed the snakes as easily as He sent them. But instead, He has Moses make an image of a bronze serpent on a pole. He does this to further test His people. They are told that in order to be cured from snake bite, they must look at this serpent on a pole.

It was made of brass to represent judgement (see Ex. 27:2,Rev.1:15, 2:18).  It represents Christ because the judgment He endured was right and true, and came down from the God of heaven.

It required faith in what God said to do it His way. They had to have faith that God’s word was enough to save. It may have seemed ridiculous. Just look at a representative of the problem? No matter how desperate their case, one look in faith would be enough to cure them.

We know this is a beautiful picture of Christ and the simple offer of the Gospel because Jesus Himself makes the connection (John 3:1415) No matter how scarlet our sins, one look in faith will save us. He also signifies how He will die; by being “lifted up” on a cross.

How is Jesus like a serpent? Just as the image of the serpent was the cure for the problem of snake bite, so Jesus, on the cross took our sin on Himself. When Christ took the burden of our sin, He became the remedy for our sin. We can do nothing to save ourselves, just as the Israelites could do nothing to save themselves. We must look to Him by faith. God himself has provided the remedy. (2 Cor.5:21)

So is this too easy? Yes and No. Yes, because all we have to do is believe in the sufficiency of the finished work of Christ. We do not need to add any of our own works to it. Indeed, we dare not. (Isa. 45:22, Heb. 12:2). No, because a life of faith is never easy. Our tendency is always to want to add to it. We are proud of our accomplishments, our disciplined life, even our faith. Our minds are idol-factories. We must avoid that.

Look what happened as time went on. The children of Israel were so thankful for being healed in this miraculous way. So thankful in fact, they started to think the bronze serpent on the pole was the cause of their miraculous cure, rather than God. They created an idol of it, gave it a name, and began to worship it. King Hezekiah destroyed it so they could no longer worship it. (2 Kings 18:4) See what I mean? We’re idol makers.

We have to have Jesus only, not Jesus plus anything else. Only faith in Jesus is our remedy for sin.

Prayer-“Father, forgive me when I grumble against Your provision, as if it wasn’t good enough. Forgive me for trying to add to your finished work on the cross, as if my paltry deeds could improve on your sacrifice. Help me to have faith in Christ alone, and not make idols in my heart.”

Questions-There were three key areas wherein the Israelites failed. First, they complained against God’s provision. Then they didn’t believe the simplicity of the cure. Finally, they made an idol of the symbol. Do you see yourself in any of these scenarios, or even all of them? I think I would have been a grumbler, personally.

Response-Consider and list at least 50 things in your everyday life that are blessings from God that you take for granted. Thank Him in prayer, naming them.

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2 Responses to “Jesus as the Bronze Serpent in the Book of Numbers”

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  1. Divine Healing – God’s Way « God Happenings - September 23, 2012

    […] Jesus as the Bronze Serpent in the Book of Numbers (the-scarlet-thread.com) […]

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  2. And The Answer is….Who | Devo Mom - October 5, 2013

    […] Jesus as the Bronze Serpent in the Book of Numbers (the-scarlet-thread.com) […]

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