“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
It was only 7 in the morning, and the day was already blazing. Asher and Elias were out collecting the daily manna for their family, and were careful not to stray too far from the camp. Asher moved a small, withered tree branch to see if there was any manna underneath, but instead he found a deadly viper coiled and ready to strike. And it did, hitting Asher square on his right arm. He screamed in pain, and immediately Elias ran to help his brother. The snake was already slithering away, but he didn’t care about that. He had to try and help Asher. What was it Moses said? Something about going and looking at a bronze snake on a pole.
Of course, that seemed completely crazy, but Elias and Asher both knew that if they didn’t do something quickly, Asher would be dead very quickly. So Elias picked up his brother and started carrying him back toward that strange bronze snake that Moses had placed on a hill near the center of all of the camps. It was only a 10-minute walk, but carrying Asher made him take much longer. After about 25 minutes, the boys were at the hill, but Asher was near death. Elias whispered to his brother, “Asher, look at the snake. Just try it. We have nothing to lose.”
Asher opened his eyes and looked toward the pole. As he caught sight of the bronze snake, something happened. He started waking up. The effects of the venom began to wear off. He put his feet down and let go of Elias. Within a couple of minutes, he felt as thought he’d never been struck by the viper (although the tell-tale snakebite marks were still fresh and clear). Neither boy could believe it actually worked, and it was something they couldn’t contain. They began running through their camp and telling people what happened. News started passing from person to person. By the end of the day, their entire camp knew the story. By the end of the next day, every camp of every tribe knew.
The vipers were everywhere, and dozens of people were struck by them every day. So now, people stayed extra close to the camps, and when they were bitten, they rushed back to the pole. Everyone who looked at it was cured, and nothing could keep anyone from getting to it when they had to.
This is the story Jesus was talking about in today’s scripture. (Numbers 21:4-9) The children of Israel had yet again hacked off God (when didn’t they do that?), and he’d unleashed a bunch of poisonous snakes on them as a punishment for their lack of gratitude. But He also gave them a remedy – the snake on the pole, which was later referred to as the Nehushtan. If they simply looked at the bronze snake, they’d be healed. It was so easy, but you had to wonder if someone refused to take a look to save themselves or a friend.
Jesus’ point was that He is just like that snake on a pole. He’s the remedy for our snakebite of sin (remember who and what talked Adam and Eve to eat the fruit in the Garden of Eden?). If we try and cure ourselves of sin, we’ll die knee-deep in them. But if we just look on Jesus with full faith in our hearts that He’s our only hope, and if we trust Him completely with our life, we’ll be cured.
It’s so simple, but most people will never look at our Nehushtan – Jesus. They think it’s too easy, or it’s silly, or sin isn’t a very big deal, or another religion will take care of things for them. These people will carry their sin snakebite to their grave. Don’t make that mistake. Look at Jesus with full faith, placing your hope in Him.
This week, start each day by looking at your “snake on a stick” – Jesus Christ. Spend a few minutes in the morning praying that He’ll walk with you through your day, and spend a few more minutes in the evening thanking Him for the day, and asking Him to forgive any sins you might have need to confess. When you keep your list short, you really do end up sleeping better, and you’ll find that you’ll start the next day with a much brighter outlook.
Reflection copyright © 2017 Doug DeBolt
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.