Summary: As the snakes are biting your ankles this week, and they will, remember to stop looking down at them, and turn your eyes upward to God for the relief and deliverance that He is willing to give, if only we look up to Him when the snakes are biting us.
I used to manage a restaurant in Blowing Rock, NC. Every time that my boss would come by to visit he would remark, looking down, that the baseboards were dirty. No matter how much I cleaned them, he would always find an area (sometimes behind a 200 pound piece of equipment) that needed more scrubbing. On one of his visits, as he looked down and remarked that the baseboards were still not as clean as they should be, I told him that if he would look up he would see that the ceiling tiles were spotless. This was probably not the best thing to say to my boss, but it does help illustrate a point here.
They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on their way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.
The Israelites had once again grown impatient with God and with Moses. They again were complaining that God brought them out of Egypt to die in the desert without bread and water, and that they hated the terrible food they had to eat. Now, on 2 previous occasions God had allowed Moses to give the Israelites water from a rock when they were in need, and the food that they detested was heavenly manna-provided by God himself to feed them! Still they were not satisfied; in their minds life was better in Egypt. Isn’t it amazing how easily we can forget how bad things are in a particular circumstance after we have been out of it for a while? How many times do we commit the same mistake, or even the same sin for that matter over and over again, forgetting how bad the situation and the consequences were the first time around? Not much has changed in the human conditioned response area from the time of the Israelites wanderings until modern day 2007, has it?
So the Lord sent poisonous snakes into their camps and many were bitten and died. What did the Israelites do? They went to Moses and said that they had sinned (again!) and wanted Moses to pray to the Lord to take the snakes away. What did Moses do? He went again in prayer to God for the people who had continued to rebel against both him as a leader, and against God.
So the Israelites knew that they had sinned, and so the question here is what is the cure for sin? To get this answer, we can look at 2 options. 1) How sin is not cured, and 2) how sin is cured.
1) How sin is not cured
The first time that the Israelites came to Moses and said that they knew that they had sinned was when the Lord had put a plague on them for their disobedience. They had sent spies to check out Caanan, and then came back with their report. “Well, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that the land is beautiful and bountiful; it truly is flowing with milk and honey. The bad news is that the guys who live there are huge and there’s no way that we can defeat them and take that land. They’re too big and there’s too many of them.”
So they moaned and groaned about how awful their life was and how much better life was when they were slaves back in good old Egypt, and then they saw the consequences of their sin, so they said, “OK, we’ll go take this land now, God.” But now was too late, as their sin had already been committed. Even Moses told them, “It won’t work now.” And it did not.
The cure for sin is not within us.
2) How sin is cured
Sin is cured by looking away from ourselves and looking to God. We must do what God has told us to do, whispered at us to do, or even been yelling at us to do. When they looked away from themselves and looked to God, they were saved from death. It was not the bronze serpent doing the healing; it was God, but only after the Israelites looked up to him for salvation.