Text: Numbers 19-21
OBSERVE: As we read Chapter 21, we encounter a strange story about snakes. God had just given the Israelites victory over the Canaanites yet there was continued unrest. Instead of being content by God’s provision; instead, the Israelites became impatient about getting to the land God had promised to them and started grumbling once again against God and Moses. At this point God had enough of their complaining as we read: “So the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people, and many were bitten and died” (Numbers 21: 6). The snakes had their intended effect and the people began to confess their sin. Then the Lord told Moses: “Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole. All who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!” Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed! (Numbers 21: 8-9).
INTERPRET: It was this picture from the past that Jesus put before Nicodemus, a Pharisee who came to Jesus in the middle of the night. In their discussion that night, Jesus was less interested in explaining himself than in offering himself to Nicodemus who was seeking. Jesus wanted to impress on him the life-or-death decision he had to make. Jesus recalled the familiar story in the wilderness, saying, “As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life” (John 3: 14-15).
APPLICATION: Jesus wanted Nicodemus to understand that we, too, have been bitten. Not by a poisonous snake per say, but by the poison of sin. We too need a cure to break the curse or we face certain death. And just as God provided the cure for his people in the desert, so has he provided a cure for us today. But it is important to remember that this cure requires something of us. We have to look to Jesus.
Jesus invited Nicodemus to turn away from his learned ways of religiosity and self-righteousness and to look to him in repentance and dependence. This was a simple remedy, but one that required action. In its simplicity, this saving invitation often becomes a stumbling block to many. However, when we humble ourselves to look at Jesus lifted high on the cross, he breaks the power of the poison of sin and brings healing to our very souls.
REFLECTION / QUESTION: Are there any “snakes” in your life that you are trying to battle on your own? Are your eyes fixed on the cure?
PRAYER: JESUS, you have saved me and I will follow your voice through the darkest of days. I will continue to fix my eyes and heart on you.
SONG: Eyes Fixed (Phil Wickham)
Contributors to The Bible Blog include: