Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
In Numbers 21:4-9 we have a brief description of a brief plague. God’s people began complaining against God and His provision. We remember that this provision is a daily dewfall of heavenly bread, enough for everyone to eat that day. All they needed to do was to pick it up.
Somehow we are never content with the provision God has given us. We always want more. Our plans are better, at least to our thinking. While that’s the same kind of thinking that makes us inventive, a creative society that can bring great advances, it can easily turn against the living God. We want to do it ourselves, thinking that our plans are better than God’s plans.
God’s response, a plague of serpents which proved deadly in nature, caused the people of Israel to call out for help. Was there a complaint in their cry for help? Possibly so. The plague certainly attracted the attention of the people and turned their attention to the simple fact that they were unable to survive without God’s help.
The response of God is very interesting. The very God who has condemned the idea of making a “graven image” to worship has Moses make a “graven image” not to worship but to be a sign for the people. This one is lifted up on a pole. The significance is easy to miss. I’ll just point out a few ways this action is important. First, the image is of that which kills them. Christ, who became sin for us, is a visible image of the sin-bearer, a representation of what kills us. Second, it is not a real serpent on the pole. Jesus is not a real sinner, though he is a real human. The sin is transmitted to him, though he is unable to walk in it. Third, the serpent is lifted up on a pole. This is what you do when you want everyone to know something has been killed and is on display. Christ was crucified for our sin, lifted up on a pole, and was placed on display for us all.
Those who looked to the serpent on the pole were rescued from the venom. Those who look to the crucified Christ for salvation are rescued from sin. When we see trials all around us, then, when we realize we are unhappy with something in this life, let us look to Christ for us. We look to him realizing that this earthly life would be unsustainable without his grace. We look to him in eager anticipation of his promise of eternal life and salvation. We look to the savior we need.
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