Snake Bites in the Desert (How Jesus Dealt with Sin)

Posted on November 14, 2016

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Taking a break from the mini-series, The Mark of Brokeness, for a minute to explore something that came to me earlier. (Read the Last Post by Clicking Here)

…“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.” (Numbers 21:7a,8b NIV)

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” (John 3:14,15 NIV) 

There are many references to the coming Messiah in the Old Testament–many “types and shadows” of Christ. The Bible is just a book of laws and regulations without Christ. The Old Testament, especially, is just a collection of old Jewish stories (that sometimes make little sense) if you’re not looking for Jesus, the Messiah, that all the prophets of old spoke of and predicted.

As Christians we have many things that divide us (unfortunately), but there is one universal thing we all deal with on a daily basis: Sin. (Sadly, we don’t all unite under Christ and not allow doctrine or church practice to divide us. But that’s not the topic for this post, so I’ll move on.)

Sin “so easily entangles us” and slowly corrodes our souls to the point of guilt, shame, or even the loss of our faith. Rarely is it one particular thing that happened in the past that we consider to be extra sinful–for we realize (hopefully) that we are washed in the blood of Christ and that situation is “remembered no more.” No, rather it is the daily sins we try and try to conquer and overcome; the times when we’re not feeling so Christian and close to God; our temper that seems to be a ticking time bomb; our tongues that cut people into pieces; our lusting after sex, money, status, etc. You can add whatever shortcoming you have into this.

Is there perhaps a different way to look at things? A way of relief from guilt? I think so.

Jesus and the Serpent on the Pole

So here’s the scene: Moses and all of the exodus Israelites are in the wilderness. And of course, they have moaned and groaned again against God and Moses over some decision that was made.snake-on-a-pole So, God sends a bunch of venomous snakes among them. A lot of them get bit and die. So they go to Moses (a type and shadow of Christ), and beg him to intercede with the Lord on their behalf that they be saved. They admit their sin. So God commands Moses to place a bronze serpent on a pole. And if someone gets bit by a snake, all they need do is look up to the bronze snake on the pole and they will be healed.

We all remember the serpent in the Garden with Adam and Eve. Often in the bible, snakes are used as a picture of sin or the devil. So snakes (sin) came among them and bit them causing death. Then the Lord gives Israel a picture of the coming Messiah…

Fast forward approximately 1,400 years or so. A Jewish leader, teacher, and Pharisee named Nicodemus comes by night and by secret to have a talk with Jesus about different things. Here, one of the things Jesus explains to this man is that, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”  (John 3:14,15)

Just what does He mean by that and how can that statement benefit us today, 2,000 years later?

Well, we look at the type and shadow. So, through Adam’s eating of the wrong tree, sin entered the world, after the snake (the devil) convinced him to do so. The snake (sin) is a venomous one, let me tell you! It has the power to cause death and excruciating pain. So God’s answer to the Israelites in the wilderness was to hang that snake on a pole. Jesus compares himself to this bronze serpent to Nicodemus.

Jesus took on all sin and hung that sin (our sin) on that wooden cross (a pole, if you will). And that wooden pole (the cross) has the power to overcome the serpents bite. 

But what did the people in the wilderness have to do in order to overcome that death? They had to look at it! They had to do so anytime and every time they had been bit. It wasn’t just a one time thing for them. The hanging of the bronze serpent on the pole was most definitely a one-time thing. But the looking to it for healing was, perhaps, a daily thing. That lesson translates to today for us.

Looking to Jesus, the Bronze Serpent, for Deliverance

So we can see these snakes as the sometimes small matters that we come across every day while we’re on earth. We can’t escape the daily sins that bite us with venom. Or so it may seem.

One way which I have recently found is to look onto Jesus on the cross to deliver me from it, just as Israel had to look at the serpent on the pole to be healed.rod-of-asclepius1 When I begin getting into a frustration, not being too spiritual or pious, I look at the Bronze Serpent for healing from the venom. When I am tempted to sin, I look to Jesus on the Cross. I have to see that sin was crucified 2,000 years ago on that cross. So if God gave a way for the Israelites a way of healing and deliverance from their sin in the wilderness, how much more will He deliver us as we look to Jesus, His only begotten Son!? For a picture to assist in this, remember the symbol on most ambulances which is, literally, where that picture comes from. See photo above.

Jesus Christ is the Bronze Serpent. He is our healer. He and only He delivers us from the poison of the deadly snake called sin and the devil.

Amen.

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Posted in: Spiritual Living