The people who were rescued from Egyptian bondage were some of the most ungrateful, ignorant and hard hearted people in the Bible. God saved them from a life of servitude as second-class citizens in a foreign land, permanently in servitude to a king who regarded them as nothing more than slaves, having forgotten the ancestor who brought them there for refuge.

They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? 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 up 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, they lived.

Numbers 21:4-9

He rescued them from Canaanites, too. In the passage immediately preceding the text we are reading here, God gave the Israelites total victory over the enemies who harried them. But the people returned to complaining. The same people whose swords were victorious because of the Lord moaned at Moses because the food wasn’t to their liking.

God presented a solution here that we may be familiar with; Jesus cites this as a type of his own lifting up when he explains his ministry to Nicodemus. The snake was the source of the poison, so when the image of the snake was lifted up and the people listened to God by looking at it, they lived. Their prayers had been fulfilled by their own obedience.

In the same way, man is the source of sin. Then we see the ideal man, the man made in the image of the invisible God, Jesus. Jesus was lifted up so that those who obey God and look to him will find the only remedy for poisonous sin that surely kills. We’ve already been bitten. Will we continue to suffer the poison, or look to the only cure?

Ethan Kirl