So, this morning, while reading my devotion, I came across Numbers 21. When I got to the part of the story where the Israelites were being bitten by the serpents, I got stuck.
If you read this passage, you will find out that the Israelites sinned and were being punished when God sent venomous serpents into their camp. Some were bitten and died. They cried out to Moses to help them. Moses prayed to God who told him to make a bronze serpent. When the people were bitten, they had to look at the serpent and they would be healed.
Upon reading this, I became confused. Why would God have them look upon what appeared to be an idol to be saved? I knew that there was more to this and so I began to pray for revelation, do some research and ask of those that I trusted to know the word. Here’s my conclusion:
1. The people did not realize their sin until they realized the damage.
The sin that the people committed was not murder or adultery, those sins that we would consider to be “big” things. The sin was complaining and speaking against or doubting God. It is so easy, to some of us anyway, to open our mouths to grumble and complain. I know it is for me.
It was only when people started to die because of the snake bites that the Israelites began to see that what they did was wrong. At this point, they went to Moses so that he can plead their case.
Most (some) of the time, when we are doing something wrong, we are not even aware of the wrong. It is only when God allows conviction or punishment, that we see the err of our ways. My prayer now is that I am more aware of my actions and the effects that they can bring.
2. Moses had to be in a place of forgiveness.
I have come across many references in scripture where Moses had to keep himself in a place of forgiveness so that he may intercede for the children of God. When the people complained, it wasn’t only against God but, also against Moses. Moses had to look past their actions, and his feelings for that matter, and pray for them so that they may be saved.
3. The serpent was symbolic.
When we think of a serpent, at least in the context of the Bible, we think of the serpent tempting Adam and Eve. With this, the serpent is often thought of as an evil presence or at least, cursed. Jesus states later in John (3:14) that as this serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, so will he: cursed on the cross but, with the ability to heal. So, the serpent was a foreshadowing of Jesus.
4. They had to face their sin to be healed.
I can’t imagine what it was like to deal with this type of calamity. Here you are, in the wilderness, not because this is what God wanted for you but, because of your own sin. You continue to commit the same sin (doubting God and His love for you) and now, you and your community are being attacked by venomous serpents. People are dying everywhere and you cry out to your leader so this craziness will stop.
What does your leader do? Make a bronze serpent and tell you to look at it to be healed. You have to face what is causing your pain and, therefore, face the fact that you started this whole thing in the first place. This is the only way that you can be healed. Whew! What an ordeal!
5. The anecdote.
As a pastor/mentor/friend of mine pointed out, the anecdote for a snake bite is venom from that particular snake. This brings light to the fact that God will often, if not always, heal us with the very thing that “bit” us, or caused us pain. It seems illogical to think that what brings us pain in life will, and can, be used to bring us to our greatest healing.
6. They were stronger.
God’s people went from this tragedy and fought battle after battle. I would like to assume that the strength that they received from this situation, prepared them for these fights. Had their faith not have been strengthened in this place, I believe they never would have trusted God enough to have victory.
Let this serve as encouragement. You may not be in a situation that is a result of your own sin. You may just be going through a rough spot in your life. Do know, however, that God is using this roughness to smooth out the places that have caused you pain. You are going to triumph over this and furthermore, become a stronger child of God. Press on!
Until next time,