Summary: A message of both warning and encouragement from one of the most fascinating incidents in the Bible.
The Bronze Snake
God sometimes chooses to show His Glory through some very strange people, you only have to look around at ourselves to figure that one out. When you consider the type of nations that God could have chosen to be His people, you wonder why He chose the nation of Israel initially. He could have chosen the powerful Egyptian or Phoenician nations. Instead he chose a man called Abraham, in a tent, and informed him that His descendents were going to become a great nation. (Genesis 18)
As Christians we can learn an awful lot from the relationship between God and this nation. There are an awful lot of parallels between their lives as a nation and our lives as a Christian. They were a people who found themselves enslaved by cruel masters when they were in the land of Egypt. In chapter 6 of the book of Romans we find that before becoming Christians we were slaves to sin.
They were a people freed from slavery through Gods mercy and found themselves heading towards a promised land. As Christians we have been freed from the bondage of sin through Christ’s death, and are now heading towards our own promised land, heaven.
It is the bit in the middle that most interests me. After leaving Egypt and before entering the land that was promised to them they had to endure forty years in the wilderness. Their walk with God in these forty years bears a lot of resemblance to our own relationship with God on this earth. As we wait for our own promise of heaven, life can be like a wilderness experience. You may have a promise upon life in another area, and in waiting for that to come to pass, you can feel like you are in a wilderness experience. The church can have a promise from God. In waiting for that to come to pass it can feel like a wilderness experience.
There are a lot of lessons that we can learn from this time period, but I just want to look at one incident. It is an incident involving something that was to have relevance a further two times in the Bible. It is one of the more peculiar items we read about in the Bible, a bronze snake. From this item I believe that we can learn about the dangers of discontentment, about the dangers of idolatry, and about overcoming our earthly problems through Jesus.
The Dangers of Discontentment.
1 The king of Arad, the Canaanite, who dwelt in the South, heard that Israel was coming on the road to Atharim. Then he fought against Israel and took some of them prisoners.
2 So Israel made a vow to the LORD, and said, “If You will indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.”
3 And the LORD listened to the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites, and they utterly destroyed them and their cities. So the name of that place was called Hormah. (Utter Destruction)
4 Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way.
5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.”
6 So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.
7 Therefore 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.” So Moses prayed for the people.
8 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.”
9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.
Although the first three verses of this chapter aren’t really about the bronze serpent, I purposely included them as I wanted to show you that this incident followed on from a great victory that the Lord gave to the Israelites. It doesn’t take long for the thrill of a victory to disappear and for discouragement to set in.
You may have experienced the same in your own life. A great meeting and move of God on a Sunday, followed by a monotonous day at work on the Monday.