October 14, 2012

The Serpent In The Wilderness – Don R. Patton

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.” Numbers 21:8

I’ve heard of some pretty strange snakebite treatments. I receive some pretty weird looks when I suggest that zapping with a stun gun appears to be quite effective. However, who would believe venomous snakebites could be cured by looking at a brass replica of the snake? Of course, the Bible doesn’t teach that this was a natural, medical remedy. Looking at the brass snake was an act of faith, necessary to receive a supernatural cure. Furthermore, as incredible as the story might seem, it was confirmed by none other than the Lord Jesus Himself:

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.” John.3:14-15

A plague of poisonous snakes had infested the camp of Israel, sent as a divine judgment because of their murmuring complaints and ingratitude. Many today would minimize this sin, telling us it was “understandable.” God did not see this as a trivial matter. The painful death of many people was the result. You think this was overreaction? Does it surprise you that God’s exalted, hallowed view is different from your own? The difficulty we have appreciating the surpassing, infinite holiness of God obscures the foolishness of this superficially reasonable reaction.

When Israel realized their foolishness, confessed that they had sinned and prayed for forgiveness and deliverance, God demonstrated His grace by prescribing this unique remedy.

Of course, there is no process assessable to our understanding that can heal a deadly snakebite by a look. Neither, of course, is there a naturalistic explanation for the salvation of a sin-poisoned soul by acting in faith toward the crucified Son of God. Both are mighty miracles, with the first being beautifully designed by God to be a prophetic foreshadowing of the other.

It is interesting to notice that the reception of God’s blessings in both these examples was by faith, but neither was by faith only. We have no problem understanding exactly what God’s attitude would be toward an Israelite suffering from snake venom, who would sit in his tent and say, “I believe the brass snake can heal me, but getting out of my tent and walking over to where I can see it and actually looking at the snake is working. God said this cure was by faith. I’ll just sit in my tent and believe.” Unless someone could change the mind of this stubborn, rebellious ingrate, it would be time to get the shovel out…one more dead Israelite.

Remember the words the apostle Paul said,

“Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come,” I Corinthians 10:9-11.The parallels and the symbolism are striking.

The brass serpent impaled on the pole represented the poisonous serpents slain, but it also spoke of

“…the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan,” Rev. 20:2.

He will be cast forever into the lake of fire.

“And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever,” Revelation 2:10.

This amazing experience of Israel in the wilderness also symbolized the judgment on sin itself and its final banishment from God’s creation.

All of this, however, was only the symbol. The real deliverance required Christ.

“to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,” 2 Cor.5:21.

The Son of man had to be lifted up on the cross, and then all who believe and are willing to follow His instructions, receive life instead of death.


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