Not long after God had freed the Hebrew peoples from
and guided them towards their
promised land they began to complain. After God provided for them water and
food they were content for a while and once again began to complain. They
started to curse God and his “worthless food.” God had enough of their sin and
sent poisonous snakes on them. Many died and were sick. They recognized their
sin and quickly went to Moses to repent and ask God’s mercy to remove the snakes.
So Moses prayed. Egypt
Numbers 21: 8 And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 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.
So why would God tell Moses to make an image of a serpent for the people to look upon? John gives us a clue in his gospel when he recorded these words from Jesus:
John 3: 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
The serpent that Moses made was a foreshadowing of Christ. The serpents sent were the punishment for their sin, and the Hebrew children were required to look upon the image of their punishment to be released from it. This probably required a great deal of trouble for a person dying of snakebite. It may have also seemed silly to them, as it would seem silly to us. “All we have to do is go and look at some snake?” It probably required a bit of faith to get up and come to where the serpent was lifted up, and believe that it would heal them. Is this the type of belief that Jesus meant in this verse and the next verse?
John “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Something as simple as believing in Christ’s death in our place may seem silly to us at first. It may seem too simple, and too easy. Jesus has made it simple for us. He did all the work. He became our image of God’s punishment and wrath on sinful mankind. He took on the punishment that we deserve for our sin and rebellion against God. He is the one that was lifted up on the cross. He was lifted up from the grave and to our Father. He will be lifted up as King of all King’s. If we repent of our sins and look on him who is lifted up then we can be made right with God and our sin will be forgiven. We can escape our sentence of eternal death and be given life eternally through him.