JESUS AS THE BRONZE SERPENT IN NUMBERS 21:4-9
The Bronze Snake. Numbers 21:9-4
4. They travelled from mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea., to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5. They spoke against God and against Moses, and said, Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? There is no bread ! there is no water ! And we detest this miserable food. 6 Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7. The people came to Moses and said, We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray the Lord will take the snakes away from us. So Moses prayed for the people. 8. The Lord said to Moses, Make a snake and put it on the pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live. So Moses made a bronze snake and put it on the pole. Then when any one was bitten by the snake and looked at the bronze snake, They lived.
14. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up. 15. that everyone who believes may have eternal life.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
“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 on the bronze serpent he lived. ”Num 21:9
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
” John 3: 14, 15
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Cor. 5:21
“Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” Isa.45:22
“He…broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it; calling it Nehushtan.” 2 Kings 18:4
They were wandering aimlessly for forty years, without ever laying eyes on your destination! Talk about discouraging! Even though they left a harsh life of slavery, now they were only remembering the good things they left behind. (Ex. 16:3) They remembered the food, water, permanent lodging, variety in their diet, and more than enough flavourful food.
They had forgotten that this was a miracle. God rained bread on them from Heaven, for forty years, six days a week. The manna did not run out. They always had enough. (Ex. 16:18). Yet at this point they had only begun the steady 40 year diet of manna. Already they were tired of it. They did not appreciate God’s provision. They grumbled to Moses, not realizing they were really complaining to God.
“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 or water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.’” Num. 21:5
God disciplined His people. He sent fiery serpents among them and many died of snake bites. As is usually the case, punishment makes you see the error of your ways. They knew they had to approach God through a mediator. Moses intercedes for the people, confessing their sin against God, and imploring Him to stop the punishment. (Num. 21:7)
God was teaching the people something about faith. It is totally illogical to think that looking at a bronze image of a snake could heal anyone from snakebite, but that is exactly what God told them to do. He has Moses make an image of a bronze serpent on a pole. He does this to further test His people. They are told that in order to be cured from snake bite, they must look at this serpent on a pole. It took an act of faith in God's plan for anyone to be healed, and the serpent on the stick was a reminder of their sin which brought about their suffering.
God could have removed the snakes as easily as He sent them. But instead,
It was made of brass to represent judgement (see Ex. 27:2, Rev.1:15, 2:18). It represents Christ because the judgment He endured was right and true, and came down from the God of heaven.
It required faith in what God said to do it His way. They had to have faith that God’s word was enough to save. It may have seemed ridiculous. Just look at a representative of the problem? No matter how desperate their case, one look in faith would be enough to cure them.
A couple of additional lessons are taught in the Bible regarding this bronze serpent. The people did get healed when they looked at the serpent, and the image was kept for many years. Many years later, when the Israelites were in the Promised Land, the serpent became an object of worship (2 Kings 18:4). This shows how easy it is for us to take the things of God and twist them into idolatry. We must never worship the tools or the people God chooses to use, but always bring the honour and glory to God alone.
We know this is a beautiful picture of Christ and the simple offer of the Gospel because Jesus Himself makes the connection (John 3:14-15) As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man must be lifted up. That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (No matter how scarlet our sins, one look in faith will save us. He also signifies how He will die; by being “lifted up” on a cross.)
How is Jesus like a serpent?
Just as the image of the serpent was the cure for the problem of snake bite, so Jesus, on the cross took our sin on Himself. When Christ took the burden of our sin, He became the remedy for our sin. We can do nothing to save ourselves, just as the Israelites could do nothing to save themselves. We must look to Him by faith. God himself has provided the remedy. (2 Cor.5:21)
All we have to do is believe in the sufficiency of the finished work of Christ. We do not need to add any of our own works to it. Indeed, we dare not. (Isa. 45:22, Heb. 12:2). No, because a life of faith is never easy.
We have to have Jesus only, not Jesus plus anything else. Only faith in Jesus is our remedy for sin.
There were three key areas wherein the Israelites failed.
First, they complained against God’s provision.
Then they didn’t believe the simplicity of the cure.
Finally, they made an idol of the symbol.
Do you see yourself in any of these scenarios, or even all of them?
The bronze serpent foreshadows Jesus. John 3:14. Jesus indicated that this bronze serpent was a foreshadowing of Him. The serpent, a symbol of sin and judgment, was lifted up from the earth and put on a tree, which was a symbol of a curse (Galatians 3:13). The serpent lifted up and cursed symbolized Jesus, who takes away sin from everyone who would look to Him in faith, just like the Israelites had to look to the upraised symbol in the wilderness. Paul is reminding the Galatians that Jesus became a curse for us, although He was blameless and sinless—the spotless Lamb of God. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Anthony Custodio Fiacre DIAS
Email Address firstname.lastname@example.org
16th September 2017