Dear COA Family,
Another way that Jesus was pre-figured in the Old Testament wilderness experience was when the Israelites were punished by God through venomous snakes.
They (Israel) travelled 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 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).
Here, because of the Israelites’ sin of grumbling, God punished them. Yet the way that God saved them was to ask Moses to put another snake up on a pole so that anyone who looked at it would live. In other words, the very thing that harmed them would save them.
This prefigured Christ in the Gospel of John.
“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).
Jesus, who is God’s Son, became a human being with all of our weaknesses and inclination to sin. Yet he did not sin. Therefore he condemned sin in the human flesh so that we who trust in him will attain to God’s righteous requirements (Romans 8:3).
Just like the bronze serpent who brought healing to the Israelites was actually one of the snakes, Jesus who brings eternal life to all of us was actually one of us!
And the only way we can receive his saving is to put our trust wholly in Jesus. This is what looking up to the bronze serpent meant. There was no other way to be healed from the snake bites than to gaze upon the object that Moses had set up on the pole.
The apostle John continues with the most famous verse in the Bible:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Looking to Jesus alone is to believe in him,
to receive all of our salvation and blessings from him,
to trust that he alone leads and guides us,
to follow his example and obey all of his commands as his disciples.
This is the only way we can be saved from the deadly venom of sin in our lives and live!