“From Mount Hor, they set out by the way, to the red sea to go around the land of Edam and the people became impatient on the way, and the people spoke against God and against Moses. Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water and we loathe this worthless food.”
Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have send for, we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people and the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole and everyone who has bitten when he sees it shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
All the way back in the book of Numbers we find the anticipation of Jesus being lifted up on a cross to pay the penalty for our sins. We find life by looking to Him in faith.
What an interesting story. What an amazing story. Really when you think about it, like all of these people as a result of their sin, complaining, rebellion, grumbling before God, they begin to experience the judgment of God. All these people being bit by fiery serpents. So Moses intercedes and God provides a way for them to be saved, but what an interesting way.
Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole so that everybody who looks at it can live, and when people get bit by the snake, they need to look at a snake and live. Why is that? Like if you just been bit by a snake, the last thing you want to see is another snake, but the whole picture here just like we see all throughout the Bible, is setting the stage ultimately for the coming of Jesus.
This is just one of so many stories, which is why we would read this during the season of advent because this is one of so many stories that ultimately point us to Jesus in the Bible. Jesus himself makes a direct tie between this story and himself. In John chapter three verse 14 he says, “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.”
Think about that. When Jesus’ talking about being lifted up here, he’s talking about being lifted up on a cross. So now draw the parallels between Numbers 21 and John 3 and ultimately what Jesus did on the cross. We deserve death for our sin. So how can we be saved? Lift up your eyes and look at a man dying on the cross for sin.
Look at him and live. Believe in him and have eternal life. Jesus says, “the way to be saved from sin is by looking to Jesus on a cross.” Numbers 21 is a powerful picture of how God saves and it’s not by doing work, by checking off boxes, it’s by looking and living. It’s by believing and finding life. What does John 3:16 say? Just two verses after what I just read.
“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Oh God, we praise you that faith, looking, believing in what you have said and what you have done is the way to be saved from our sins. God, we praise you that we don’t have to work to try to earn your favor. We praise you that you have provided a way for us to be saved from our rebellion, by your grace, by what you have done for us.
Jesus, we praise you for dying on the cross. We praise you for taking the payment of our sin upon yourself as we anticipate the celebration of your coming at Christmas. We praise you that you willingly allowed yourself to be lifted up on a cross that we might be saved. All glory be to your name for your love, for your grace, for your mercy. Even today, right now, we look to you and we praise you. We look to you and we love you, Jesus.
We look to you and we trust in you with all our hearts. We look to you and we yield to you. We surrender to you. You are our savior, our Lord our King, and we worship you. And we pray that you would use our lives to make your love known to others. Help us to call more people today, this week in our churches to look to you, to trust in you, believe in you, and have eternal life.
God, please, especially here at Christmas when we have so many more opportunities just by the very holiday happening around us to share the gospel. Help us to be faithful, to share the gospel, to say to friends, co-workers, family members, neighbors, acquaintances, people we run into today that we hadn’t planned on running into today.
God, please help us too with boldness, with compassion, say to them, “Look to Jesus and live, believe in Jesus and have eternal life.”
We pray this in Jesus name. Amen.
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