In today’s reading, the Israelites needed a spiritual “blood transfusion.” Their sinful and rebellious attitude had shown itself in impatience, complaints about hardships, ingratitude for manna, and a lack of faith in God’s leader, Moses. This faithlessness resulted in a deadly plague of snakes that were killing the people.
The Israelites repented and asked Moses to intercede for them. God’s response required them to show their repentance by a simple act of faith. Moses made a bronze serpent and lifted it up on a pole. To be healed, people had to look at the serpent. If they didn’t believe God’s words, they wouldn’t look up and would therefore die. Only through faith could they be saved.
Homeopathic medicine is the practice of curing likes with likes. The patient receives diluted doses of substances that, at full strength, cause the same symptoms the patient already has.
This type of medicine is used in many parts of the world, though it remains controversial among medical experts. In this instance, God prescribed a similar remedy for Israel, treating snake bites with a replica of a snake. Going a step further, God undid the effects of the plague through an image of the curse itself.
Today’s story begins with the people grumbling … again. It was the same old story: we’re dying, we’re starving, we don’t like the miraculous food, and we’re sorry we ever left Egypt. But this incident is unique; this time, the people repented.
In past events, Moses had asked God for mercy on behalf of the Israelites, but on this occasion, his prayers were prompted by a recognition of their sin that Israel hadn’t shown before. They realized on their own why the snakes were sent, and they confessed their sin. In that way, this was a spiritual breakthrough for Israel!
If God had followed the formula we’ve seen so far, we might expect Him to demand a sacrifice of some kind, like a lamb without defect. But the Lord told Moses to put a bronze snake, a picture of judgment, on a pole for all to see. He directed the people’s eyes, not to an image of purity, but to a symbol of wrath.
For healing to take place, the people had to close the loop of repentance. They sinned, confessed, and asked for mercy. The last step was to accept God’s remedy by faith and follow His instructions.
We often picture Christ as the perfect sacrifice, and that he is. But He also took upon Himself the shame of sin and the full penalty of wrath. In His conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus compared His upcoming crucifixion to the lifting up of the serpent in the desert. Let’s confess our sins, seek His mercy and turn our eyes to him, who not only gave his life but also received our punishment. Thank Him in word and in deed today.
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+21-22&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Numbers 23-25 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan