Numbers is a book of NUMBERS. The book begins and ends with a roll call of the people of Israel. The real theme of the book is found in between these two counts… A people that WANDERS. Faith would have led to victory but instead their fear led to 40 years of defeat.
Numbers 14:22–23; 20:12
Snake on a Pole
You don’t have to turn to Hollywood for some pretty crazy stories. The Bible has plenty of them, especially in the Old Testament. One of them is found in Numbers 22. The Israelites were wandering in the wilderness when they did what they did best: grumbled against Moses and God. God chooses to punish their sin in a unique way. He unleashes “fiery serpents” upon the people. These snakes were so poisonous that they killed the individuals they bit.
The people may have been grumpy but they weren’t dumb. They immediately beg Moses to ask God to forgive them and take away the snakes. And God, being the merciful God that He is, does so. But in a unique way. He tells Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole. Every person who got bit, if they looked at the bronze snake, they would be instantly healed and would no longer face death. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction!
This event was actually meant to be a picture of Jesus and what He would do thousands of years later to take away the sting of sin and death. Now, you may think that’s a stretch, but it isn’t. Because it’s the disciple John who God inspires to use this incident to point to the Savior. John 3:16 is perhaps the best known verse in all of Scripture. If you were to ask people what the verses before it say, the vast majority of people couldn’t do it. But it’s those verses that point to this incredible event in Numbers. John says in John 3:14–15… “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
John isn’t talking about a snake, he’s talking about the Savior. And He’s not lifted up on a pole, He’s lifted up on a cross. And it’s not a snake bite that He heals, it’s the sting of sin and death. And it’s not so people could live out a full life and then die, but that people could live for all eternity. The cross and empty tomb represent a Savior who defeated that evil serpent, Satan, for God’s glory and our good. Next time you see a picture of a snake, remember that we have a Savior who defeated the snake of all snakes, Satan, and brought victory for all who turn to Him!
- Do you truly believe the Savior delivers you from sin?
- How could you show that belief this week?
- Who is someone you could tell this story to this week?