"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." John 3:14-17
The account of the brass serpent which Moses lifted up on a pole is recorded in Numbers 21:4-9. The people of Israel had become discouraged along the way in the wilderness. They spoke against both God and Moses, questioning why they had been brought into such a desolate land where there was neither food nor water. They had grown tired of the manna God provided them each day. Because of their lack of faith and complaining words, the LORD God sent fiery serpents among the people to bite them, and many of the people died.
Then the people acknowledged their sin and asked Moses to pray to the LORD that He would remove the serpents from them. Instead of removing all the serpents, God commanded Moses to make a fiery serpent and lift it up on a pole so that anyone bitten by one of the poisonous serpents could look up at the serpent on the pole and live. As God commanded, Moses made a serpent of brass, lifted it up and mounted it on a pole. And anyone who was bitten by one of the fiery serpents, if he in faith looked at the brass serpent, lived.
In the same way as the children of Israel, we, because of our sinful and unbelieving hearts, fail to trust in the LORD God and walk in His ways. We grumble and complain about His commandments and about the troubles and difficulties which He permits to arise in our lives. Like Adam and Eve, who failed to trust in the word of the LORD and ate of the tree of which God had commanded them not to eat, we fail to trust in the word of the LORD and so often think we know better than God what is good for us.
When God says, "Thou shall not," we question His goodness and wisdom and do those things He says not to do. When He tells us what He would have us do, again we think we know better and do what pleases us instead.
As God did not immediately remove the fiery serpents from among His people, so He has not removed from us the consequences of our sin and disobedience. Like Adam and Eve, we must suffer sorrow and hardship in this life and finally die. But though our lives here in this world may be filled with pain and sorrow, God has provided a way for us to live and not suffer eternal death and damnation.
God promised to Adam and Eve the Seed of the woman who would crush the serpent's head and save them (cf. Gen. 3:15). As Moses lifted up a brass serpent in the wilderness that all who looked to it could live, so God sent His only begotten Son into the world - the Seed of the woman, Jesus, Son of God and Son of man - and He was lifted up on the cross, crucified and condemned for the sins of the whole world, that we might look to Him in faith and live eternally.
Though we have all been bitten by the old evil serpent and have the poison of sin flowing through our hearts and veins, God in His great love for all mankind sent His only begotten Son into the world, not to condemn us for our sin, but to fulfill all righteousness and to bear our punishment and save us from eternal death and damnation.
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness and as those who looked toward it in faith lived, so also sinners today can look to Christ Jesus, who was lifted up and crucified for the sins of all and is risen again in victory; and those who look to Jesus in faith will not die eternally but live and have everlasting life!
Dear Jesus, I have sinned and turned aside from loving, trusting and honoring You with my life. Do not deal with me as I deserve on account of my sin but have mercy upon me. I look to You and Your cross for salvation. Forgive my sin, cleanse my heart and grant me life eternal with You in Your everlasting kingdom. Amen.
[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible. Devotion is by Randy Moll. He may be contacted by email at [email protected]. More of Moll's devotional writings may be freely read at https://goodshepherdonline.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.]