Snake on a Stick
From Mount Hor to the Red Sea the detouring Israelites grew impatient. When they grew impatient they grumbled, speaking against God and Moses.
The free food that God was providing for them daily, which nourished them without their need to till the soul was “detestable, miserable food.”
It would be like approaching a parent and saying, “all you give me is love and shelter and feed and clothe me and provide for my every need. It is horrible.”
As a loving parent, you would like to set the reset button if your child did that and give them a glimpse of what horrible is actually like, while still showing your love for them. I think they call that “tough love.”
That’s what God delivers, in the form of venomous snakes.
And the people respond correctly. They confess that they sinned and they repent. They ask Moses to pray that the Lord will take away the snakes.
God, does one better, He gives them a lesson about salvation. He has Moses form the image of a snake on his staff and put it on a pole. When anyone is bitten they need only look at the bronze snake and they lived.
Let’s break this last part down because it can be a little bit confusing. If this is meant to be a foreshadowing of Christ raised up on the cross, why is it a snake? Why did looking on it heal them? Isn’t this the creation of a graven image?
It is a lesson about Christ. He would be raised up on the cross. But Jesus is not the snake. Snakes have normally been used to represent Satan and wickedness. But when Jesus was raised up on the cross and the sacrificial lamb he laid down his life and, through grace, descended fully from His kingdom to be a Son of Man. When Jesus the man was raised up on the stake He carried with him all the sin of the world, dating back to the first sin in the garden and including all sin of all mankind of all time.
There was nothing the Hebrews did to heal themselves. No special words or practices. No medicine or magic. One simple thing – they had to turn to this gift from God. To do so was a profession of faith, simply because it doesn’t make sense. Looking at something with your eyes can’t physically cure a snake bite with poisonous venom streaming through your blood. But turning your eyes and heart to Jesus is the only way to have life, real life, ever lasting life.
But what about it being a graven image. I’m sure this was a concern. But God allowed and instructed Moses to use it as a teaching and healing tool with the Israelites. The crosses we hang in our homes and churches and around our necks are a reminder, a teaching tool about the gift of salvation of our Lord Jesus. They are not to be worshipped. We learn in 2 Kings 18:4 that King Hezekiah was forced to destroy this bronze snake because the people had begun to worship it, burning incense to it.
I think it is amazing that this same snake is today the symbol of medicine. The American Medical Association logo includes the snake on a stick as a symbol of healing.
They did not have a fight with Edom nor were they to take any of their land
They were impatient, downtrodden, making themselves miserable
Venomous snakes were sent among them – bit and many people died
They confessed their sin and repented – asked Moses to pray for them to God
Confess our sins, God is faithful and just and He’ll forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness