In 1400 B.C. Moses is told by God to make and image of a snake on a stick and hold it up. Those who looked upon the image and had faith were saved and did not die. Talk about some strange bible stories!
But, like the rest of the bible, this is a story that points to Jesus and helps us understand the attributes of God.
With Moses, God used snakes, a creature most commonly associated with the serpent from the garden, a representation of evil and wickedness, to bring His people back to repentance. The snakes desired only to kill. But God instructed Moses to take the thing that brought death and hang it on a pole so that by looking on it and believing, the people might be saved from death and healed.
With Jesus, He Himself took on all the sin of the world, the thing that desired only to kill. As Isaiah prophesied in 52:14, His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness. But all who look upon the work of Jesus on the cross and believe are saved from eternal death and are healed.
I was struck as well by the way Satan has always worked to co-opt and corrupt that which God has made. We see evidence of it in the garden of Eden, in the way he twisted God’s gifts into temptation. We see it in the image of the snake on the pole, as well. Moses, at God’s direction, made it in 1400 B.C. By 700 B.C, the people had begun to worship the item, the image of the snake on the pole, and Hezekiah, at God’s direction, destroyed it. 300 years later, the Greeks bring it back as the Rod of Asclepius, a greek god, who just happened to be the god of medicine (go figure!). The symbol was adopted through the ages by physicians and still is used on many hospitals and doctors’ offices, ambulances and treatment centers world wide.
But while evil works to hide and disguise, God’s Word, opens the eyes of those who believe in Him and study His word. Those in darkness see a snake on stick. Those in the light see our sins hung on the cross through the sacrifice of Jesus.
This is evident in so many other things as well. Those in the dark see Christmas as a season of spending and profiting. Those with sight see that all have a yearning to share with each other, like We have a yearning to share the good news and great gifts of the birth of our Lord and Savior. Those in the dark see a rainbow as a celebration of homosexuality. Those in the light know it is a promise by God never to destroy mankind again regardless of the level of sin and depravity.
And, like the snake on the staff – what is foolishness to man is a symbol of great hope to those who believe.
The prophets had spoken of an indwelling of the Holy Spirit as well, a new heart, put my Spirit in you and you will live
He was speaking first to the pharisees and Jewish leaders, but also broader to the Hebrews who looked only for a spectacle. If they have not been willing to listen to Jesus and John about things going on in the midst, how can they hear about heaven
It was a foreshadowing of the healing power of the Cross. By taking on the image of that which was causing death (with Moses it was snakes, with Jesus it was the sin of the world), and then being raised up as a “sign” to look at and be healed when accompanied with a repentant and honest heart.
Life was a gift given to me (us/mankind) by God to live in unity with Him. Sin is a choice I/we have made to stand apart from God. The result is that I no longer have rights to life. Death is the cost of that disobedience. Jesus paid the price to save me.
That He did this for me not based on anything I do or did and while I was still steeped in sin. It is a free gift for my benefit alone.