“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.'” (Numbers 21:8)
Some people like snakes, but a lot of us don’t. We see them as dangerous and even sneaky and suspicious.
Israel didn’t like snakes either. Poisonous snakes caused many of the Israelites to die after grumbling against God. Snakes commonly live in the wilderness, but they can also be seen as a symbol of power. Perhaps because Israel complained that they were better off in Egypt, some people have noted that snakes were a symbol of the power of Egypt, for they were often displayed on the crowns of Egypt’s kings. So people have suggested that in sending venomous snakes, maybe God was saying, “Do you really want to go back to Pharaoh’s stinging, deadly power? Is Egypt better?” Of course, snakes can also remind us of the deceiving serpent in Eden (Genesis 3).
What’s surprising is that God’s cure for Israel was to look at a bronze snake lifted up on a pole. By doing that, Israel was looking in faith to the Lord’s power to heal. Only God could cure, and the people needed to look to him with eyes of faith.
In John 3:14-15, Jesus said that “just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,” that whoever believes in him “may have eternal life.” Jesus was lifted up on the cross so that we can be forgiven and healed. Are you trusting in him so that you can be saved?
Jesus, we worship you as the crucified Christ. As we worship today, may we look to you with eyes of faith. In your name, Amen.