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.
For forty years the children of Israel wondered in the desert under God’s heavenly care. They were protected from wild beasts, snakes, they ate heavenly food and a rock of water followed them. The narrative even tells us that their shoes and garment did not even go thread bare. It would be easy for that new generation of Israelite to become self-righteous against their fathers, but as the old adage says, ‘the apple did not fall far from the tree’ and as is generally the case, the new generation met with failure the same tests that were presented to their fathers.
As soon as Miriam died, the water failed which caused the Children of Israel to rebel against Moses. They complained so much that they wished to have met the same destiny as their fathers. They even questioned Moses about bringing them out of Egypt (Numbers 20:1-5). The dynamics of complaint are very strange. Being a generation born in the desert, they were complaining while wishing for something they never experienced; something they had no frame of reference for. After Moses provided the people with water, the Edomites refused passage to Israel which caused the people to complain again because of the difficulty of the way. We can certainly relate to their reactions. We, who are often carried on the Father’s wings of care, often omit to see the mighty miracles of provision and protection He does for us daily and are quick to complain about daily inconveniences, problems and setbacks.
Because of their complaints, God allowed snakes to afflict the people. Whereas we may think that the appearance of snakes was a miracle, the real miracle is that this region is infested with snakes, but we don’t hear of snake problems before. Like the parent frustrated by the whining of his offspring wants to give them something real to complain about, the Father temporarily removed His protection (Numbers 21: 4-9).
When the people repented from their complaining, they asked Moses to intercede for them. The Almighty then sayd to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live" (Numbers 21: 8).God was redirecting their vision upward. They were learning not to look at Moses for their daily needs and protection, but upward to God. The Hebrew word used for ‘pole’ is the word ‘nes’, meaning ‘miracle’. God certainly did a redemptive miracle on that day as the people looked at the bronze snake and were healed. Yeshua compared Himself to that snake on a pole and said, 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 3:14-15). The symbol of as snake on a pole has now become an international symbol for pharmacies.
As we read these stories of the true pioneers of the faith, let us remember that these things happened to them as an ensample for us upon whom the end of the world has come (1 Corinthians 10:6). May we then learn also to not look to man for direction protection and provision, but as Moses told the people on that day, ‘Look up, and live!’