4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea,to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way;5 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! 6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died.7 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. 8 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.9 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, NIV).
In our Scripture reading today, we learn that human nature is the same as it was in the days of old. People still suffer because of their impatience and their own sinful actions. We don't know how good we have it and how God continues to be good to us, even when we suffer, because of our own wrong doings. We complain and grumble about everything. We complain about what we don't have, when we should be counting our blessings and giving thanks for God's unconditional love and mercy.
The Israelites complained about being delivered from bondage in Egypt, as if they were being punished. They failed to see this miraculous deliverance as a sign of God's divine presence, love and grace. They grumbled about the food God had provided for them in the wilderness. They were impatient with God, moaned about not having enough water, and were having a pity party. God became fed up with their ungrateful hearts and unrepentant attitudes. They had forgotten that there are consequences to willful sin.
God cannot protect us from the judgment and punishment warranted by our attitude and sinful behavior. An unrepentant and critical spirit brings suffering and God's wrath. The LORD sends venomous snakes among the Israelites, and many of them die. Then they recognize that they have sinned against the Lord, and ask Moses to pray to the Lord to take the snakes away from them. Moses prays to the Lord on their behalf, and Moses is told by the Lord to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole. Moses then tells the people, if they are bitten, to look at the bronze snake, and they will live. They look at the snake and live.
The bronze snake reminded the Israelites of their need of repentance and change. As they looked upon the bronze snakes and repented, they were healed.
When the Israelites were bitten by a snake, they died physically; but when they looked at the bronze snake on the pole, they lived. Just imagine what will happen when people who are spiritually dead, look at the cross of Jesus atoning death, they too will live.
The bronze snake on a pole was a type or symbol of the redemptive cross of Jesus, that brings healing, wholeness, and salvation. Look to Jesus and live! When we repent of our sins, putting our trust in the atoning death of Jesus, John tells us that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgives us our sins (1 John 1:9). Paul tells us that when we turn from our sins to God's salvation, it is like we have passed from death to life.
The amazing thing about the cross, in that even in today, we can experience God unconditional love and mercy. We can look to Jesus for healing and salvation. Why would you continue on the path of sin that leads to death and separation from God, when you can look to Jesus, and live into eternity with God.
We are in the season of Lent. This is a time when the church calls us to examine our lives and to turn from our sins to God, for forgiveness and restoration. The cross of Jesus makes possible forgiveness, healing and salvation. The cross calls us to live the life God created us to experience. The cross calls us to change and not just to live as the world lives, but to experience the abundant life that Jesus opened to everybody. Look to the cross and live!