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 our soul loathes this worthless bread.” – Numbers 21:5
The children of Israel have been in the wilderness wandering around for a very long time. This term term “wilderness” refers to land that contains little vegetation or trees, and because of a sparsity of rainfall, it cannot be cultivated. This land is best used for tending flocks of animals. (MacArthur Study Bible)
In fact they’ve now been there nearly 40 years? The newness and excitement of escaping bondage had long ago worn off. They are a complaining bunch. They have contentment issues.
“Moses, a steak sure would be nice…” “We are so tired of this manna…” “And we have no water… why would you do this to us?” Never mind that in chapter 20 God brought forth fresh water out of a rock.
But before we are too harsh with them in our self-righteous minds let’s take a brief moment to consider our own contentment issues; the times when we don’t like this or that. “Pastor, I sure think it would have been better if we eliminated that 30 minute prayer time.” “I think you really missed the point, or why didn’t you include this verse…” If we are honest with ourselves we complain as much as the children of Israel and we must stop or risk perishing.
So the LORD sent fiery serpents (translated poisonous serpents) among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. – Numbers 22:6
So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived. – Number 22:9
I want to point out three important points for us to consider today.
Israel is sinful
Brothers and sisters, we are sinful. We reject God’s goodness and His provision even in our times of testing. Do we really want to despise what God tells us is good for us?
James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
God judges sin
Numbers 22:6 …and many of the people of Israel died. God demands our complete trust in Him. No less than full submission to the Lordship of Christ will do. I realize how challenging this seems to some, but the alternative is death and judgment as represented by the serpent. Unless you look to Him you will likewise perish.
God is merciful
Numbers 22:9 “…and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.”
God understands the predicament of our willful disobedience and our sinful nature. Because of His love He offered a way to live. He has some requirements that accompany this way out.
We must look to Christ
Isaiah 45:22 “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.”
Acts 4:12 “Nor is there any salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
We must repent and turn from sin
Acts 2:37-38 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Can we see the foreshadowing of Christ as God used this lesson to teach His people that man is sinful, God is holy, God judges and will pour out His wrath on sin and then lastly He has provided a way out in Jesus Christ?
John 3:14-15 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
Are we beginning to see the authority and the truth of scripture? Does this give us a new appreciation that God had a plan and His plan is perfect? I realize for those in disbelief this is foolishness. The message of the cross is foolishness to those that are perishing. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
If you were snake-bit in the wilderness would you look to the serpent lifted up and be saved? Why would you not look to the resurrected Christ to deliver you from your sin? Look to Him and be saved if you are in disbelief.
If you are a Christian stand in awe of His amazing sacrifice.