Brazen Serpent | Devotion 1: The Way
Pastor Ryan and Cathy Story
It can be shocking to watch people make choices for which they know there will be a consequence. We are people who love to test our limits! By Numbers chapter 21, it can start to feel like we are rereading the same story. The Israelites are really good at being impatient and complaining. In Numbers 21:4-5, we read about the Israelites complaining against God again. In verses 6-7, we read, “Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.’”
When faced with the consequences of their disobedience and complaining against God, the Israelites immediately acknowledge what they have done and ask for Moses to approach God on their behalf. You may notice that the Israelites do not question where these snakes originated. They do not try to blame the environment or make up some other reason for why these snakes appeared. Instead, it appears as if they knew exactly where these snakes came from and the reason that they were there.
The Israelites say in verse 7, “We have sinned.” This is such a bold statement because it accepts responsibility. Having to admit that we have done wrong is often a hard thing to do. It can feel easier to shift blame to something or someone else rather than admitting that we have done something wrong. Even more challenging than admitting our own wrong may be accepting the fact that God may discipline us for our actions. While this certainly does not mean that every time something unfortunate happens in our lives it is God punishing us; how often do we try to correlate our lack of obedience to God with His discipline in our lives? God is too good to let us continue in our sin. Proverbs 3:12 writes, “For the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” Similarly, Hebrews 12:7 writes, “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” It is out of His love for us that God directs us in the way we should go.
When we continue in Numbers 21:7-9, we read, “So Moses prayed for the people. 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.’ 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 life.” When Moses goes to God on behalf of the people, God answered their plea, but probably not in the way they expected. God does not remove the snakes from the people, but instead provides a way that they can live. This is what God has done in our lives by sending Jesus to die on the cross for us. While we still have the consequences and discipline for our actions, we are provided with a way to God through Jesus. In John 14:6, we read, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”