40 Days to Jerusalem
The New Exodus Begins ‚Äì Day 23
Weekly Theme: Through the Wilderness
Today‚Äôs Meditation: Lifting up a Snake
But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, ‚ÄúWhy have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!‚Äù 6 Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, ‚ÄúWe sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.‚Äù So Moses prayed for the people. 8 The Lord said to Moses, ‚ÄúMake a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.‚Äù 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived. (Numbers 21:4-9)
As the Children of Israel continued their pilgrimage through the wilderness, something occurred that is quite familiar and far too predictable! Once again, the Israelites complained about their provisions. They whined that there was no bread, no water, and that they abhorred the manna that God provided for them. Beyond their incessant grumbling, they said something far more insidious. Verse five tells us that they spoke against God and Moses. And what was their accusation? They claimed that God had brought them out into the wilderness to die. What a statement. Clearly, the people assign to God the intent to kill them! Imagine, charging God with attempted murder. This is nothing less than ascribing to God the works of Satan ‚Äì that murderous and slimy old snake.
How did God respond to this affront? If the people believed God to be Satan, then it stands to reason they preferred to have Satan as their travelling companion through the wilderness. So, God gave them exactly what they wanted. He sent snakes among them. These venomous snakes did what snakes are quite capable of doing. They bit the people and many of the people perished.
After the unleashing of the snakes, the people had a dramatic change of heart. They approached Moses and confessed that they had sinned when they leveled their accusations against Moses and God. The people asked Moses to add them to his prayer list! They wanted Moses to plead their case before God so that God would take away the deadly snakes. God‚Äôs Prophet acquiesced to their request and prayed to the Lord on their behalf.
God‚Äôs response offers a stunning, almost jarring ‚Äútype‚Äù or foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus. Moses was instructed to fashion a bronze snake and place it on a pole. As an antidote to the snake bites, the people were instructed to look to the snake and be healed. Moses lifted up the snake and the people who were bitten were healed from the bites that would have surely killed them. Could this be God‚Äôs way of humbling the people? Since the Garden, snakes had been associated with evil. Now, they were looking to the image of evil for their healing. In order to live, they had to follow God‚Äôs prescription, no matter how distasteful they found it! Suddenly, their complaints were replaced by their compliance.
John 3:14-15 connects the lifting up of the snake to bring physical healing, and the lifting up of Jesus, to bring spiritual healing. John quotes Jesus as saying, ‚ÄúJust as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.‚Äù The analogy is quite compelling, at least concerning the shared outcomes. Looking to the bronze serpent and to Jesus brings healing. But, how can Jesus be compared to a snake? Consider that when Jesus was on the cross, He was, as John the Baptist describes, ‚Äú‚Ä¶the Lamb of God, who takes upon Himself the sins of the world‚Äù (John 1:29). Jesus took upon Himself our sins. Paul wrote of this, ‚ÄúGod made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God‚Äù (2 Corinthians 5:21). So, it is no stretch to say that when Jesus was lifted up on the cross, He appeared as a snake ‚Äì because He took humanities sin upon Himself. Through this act of self-sacrifice, Jesus offers us hope of healing. When we look to Jesus, we are healed spiritually!
Just as the Children of Israel were humbled by looking to a snake for their healing, so we are humbled and broken by looking at the Son of God who took the form of a snake for us. How horrible that our sins are responsible for this atrocity! And yet, when Jesus was lifted up, when ‚ÄúHe became sin for us,‚Äù this was done to express God‚Äôs love to sin sick humanity. This is the love that ultimately brings our healing. For God so loved the world‚Ä¶
All of us have turned our backs on God and His provisions for us. Therefore, all of us are infected with the venomous sting of sin. Only through the sacrifice of Jesus and His glorious resurrection are we offered forgiveness and restoration. When we are ‚Äúin Him,‚Äù we, ‚Äúbecome the righteousness of God.‚Äù That is, we are made ‚Äúright‚Äù with God. Jesus is the only antidote for the poison within us. Therefore, we should, ‚Äúfix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God‚Äù (Hebrews 12:2).
Prayer for Today
Praise God for offering us an antidote to the venom within us
Give thanks to Jesus, who took upon Himself the sin of the world, and who became sin for us
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any unconfessed sin
Repent, confess and ask forgiveness
Ask the Lord to reveal to you someone who is dying without the antidote to their sin
Ask the Lord to enable you to share the ‚Äúmedicine of immortality‚Äù with them
I said, ‚ÄúHave mercy on me, Lord; heal me, for I have sinned against you‚Äù (Psalm 41:4).