"The Brazen Serpent" - James Tissot
TO CHEW ON: "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 21:9
Desert hardships continually tripped up the Israelites. We would expect their God-given victory at Hormah (Numbers 21:1-3) would have sealed their confidence in God. But no. A little while later "The soul of the people became very discouraged on the way."
They vented their discouragement to Moses: "Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread."
After that the test only got worse when God allowed poisonous snakes to slither among them, killing many.
This time, not like some others, the people approached Moses in repentance: "We have sinned for we have spoken against the Lord and against you."
Moses prayed and God told him to erect a bronze snake statue, to which the people could look and be healed.
This story convicts us as we recognize ourselves in those discontented Israelites.
1. How often don't we grumble about situations far less severe than what the Israelites were going through? But grumbling of any kind and about anything is toxic.
2. The Israelites' grumbling was sparked by simple discouragement—an attitude that is hardly uncommon among us. It's an attitude that begins with negative, discouraged thinking. Joyce Meyer says:
"Discouragement destroys hope .... The Bible repeatedly tells us not to be discouraged or dismayed. God knows that we will not come through to victory if we get discouraged, so He always encourages us .... God wants us to be encouraged, not discouraged.
When discouragement or condemnation tries to overtake you, examine your thought life. What kind of thoughts have you been thinking?" Joyce Meyer, Battlefield of the Mind, p. 33.
3. The Israelites' grumbling about Moses was really grumbling about God (Numbers 21:5,7). When we grumble about people in our lives, church leadership, or our circumstances we too are really grumbling against God who has brought us to this place and allowed these things into our lives. Paul warns the Corinthians (and us) about this attitude in 1 Corinthians 10:9-11.
PRAYER: Dear God, please forgive me for sinning against You by grumbling and complaining. Help me to nip in the bud negative thoughts of discouragement and fault-finding, and instead to make it a habit to put my hope in You - Psalm 42:5. Amen.
MORE: The foreshadow of Divine healing
A sidebar note in my Bible reminds us that Jesus was intimately connected to this event:
"The plague of fiery serpents sent upon God's people was, in reality, a self-inflicted punishment, resulting from their frequent murmuring. God's judgment was in allowing what their own presumption invited, and many died from the bites of the serpents.**********
But in answer to the repentance of His people, God prescribed the erecting of a bronze serpent to which any might look in faith and be healed. Jesus referred to this account in John 3:13-14. He clearly implied that the bronze serpent typified His being raised upon the cross. Our healing, both spiritual and physical, comes from looking to and identifying with Christ crucified, 'by whose stripes you were healed' - 1 Peter 2:24" - Nathaniel M. Van Cleave, "The Focus of Divine Healing," New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 205.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.