READ: Numbers 21-22
THINK: A few days ago (Saturday) we read John 3, that great chapter which contains possibly the most recognized and repeated verse in the Bible: John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
But right before this verse, as Jesus is explaining what his life and his impending death are all about to Nicodemus, he recalls the events of Numbers 21. “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.” – John 3:14-15
While they were wandering through the desert the people of Israel got to a point where they were bitter and they sinned by rejecting God and complaining against him. And there was a price to pay. God sent venomous snakes and they attacked the people and caused a number of them to die. The wages of sin is death. It has always been this way. Sin has a cost, and that cost non-negotiable.
But the people cried out and God provided a way for them to be cured – a way for them to avoid the natural consequence of their sin. God told Moses to make a fiery serpent of bronze and put it high on a pole, and he promised that anyone who looked at it, after being bitten by a snake, would be healed. And this seems, at least to me, to be kind of a weird way to do it. God could have just taken the poison away, instantly healing all of the people who had been bitten. He could have just instantly killed the snakes. But he didn’t. In order to be healed the people had to look up at a picture of the very hideousness that had caused their pain in the first place. And they had to choose to do it. It was easy. It was free. But it was a choice. God didn’t compel it or do it for them. He simply provided the snake on the pole.
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up…
The wages of our sin is death. We’ve rejected God and there is nothing less that we deserve. But God has graciously provided a way. He doesn’t compel us to be forgiven, doesn’t demand that we comply. He simply invites us to gaze up at the grotesque picture of the very source of our problem – a man broken and stained by sin – suspended there above the earth. The solution is easy and it’s free to anyone who would choose it. Forgiveness for sin and escape from the death that is its consequence is available for anyone who would look at Christ upon the cross and believe. God so loved the world that he sent his only Son that whoever believes should not perish but have eternal life.
PRAY: Thank God today for the gift of salvation. Thank him for providing a way for us to be forgiven and healed and blessed with eternal life.
LIVE: Imagine that you were in the desert as a member of the nation of Israel. If you heard about the cure from Moses and you knew that your friends and neighbors didn’t know about it yet – but that many of them were suffering and dying from snake bites – how quickly would you run to tell them? How motivated would you be to save their lives?
Live with that same urgency in sharing Jesus with them! It could not possibly be more critical!
What a powerful connection! I’ve never realized the depth of what Jesus was saying there. Wow!