Medical Symbol

Brazen Serpent | Devotion 2: Medical Symbol
Wes McCullough

Sometimes children fuss for no reason. Life is not exactly the way they want it. This attitude will make some parents think, “Stop crying, or I will give you something to cry about!”

It is easy for us to read the Old Testament in hindsight and understand God’s plan, but for the Israelites living it day by day, it was far from easy. God provided for and directed their journey through the desert, but it was a long and exhausting trip. Like they had done many times before, they complained about Moses and God because life was not everything they thought it should be. Like before, God saw fit to straighten them out, this time by sending snakes to bite and kill them.

Initially, I thought it odd that God would direct the Israelites to look to an object for saving. With some research, the concept became clear. Serpents were often used to represent sin. Bronze was associated with judgment because it is made by passing through fire for purification. John Wesley explains it clearly,

“This method of cure was prescribed, that it might appear to be God’s own work, and not the effect of nature or art: and that it might be an eminent type of our salvation by Christ. The serpent signified Christ, who was in the likeness of sinful flesh, though without sin, as this brazen serpent had the outward shape, but not the inward poison, of the other serpents: the pole resembled the cross upon which Christ was lifted up for our salvation: and looking up to it designed our believing in Christ.”

God was teaching the world a long time ago that salvation would not come from man’s efforts. We would have to look up and have faith in the efficacy of God’s grace.

John 3:16 is a very well known Bible verse. The verses preceding it say, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).

One final note of interest: can you picture the modern medical symbol of a serpent wrapped around a post? Surely you have seen it many times and not thought of the origins of its design. Now you know. It is so cool to see all the influences biblical stories have had on our world and culture.

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