And the people said, ‘Pray unto the Lord … that He take away the serpents from us.’ And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Make thee a fiery serpent … when he looketh upon it shall live’. Numbers 21:7-8 KJV
So, the people came to Moses and said, “Intercede with the LORD, that He may remove the serpents from us.” Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent…. when he looks at it, he will live. Numbers 21:7-8 NASB
We are all familiar with the story of the brazen serpent on the pole: the journeying, the murmuring, the fiery serpents, and the judgment of God on the camp. We read that many people died as a result. A chastened and desperate people presented themselves to Moses. The only remedy they could see was that God remove the serpents.
But removal of the serpents would have done nothing for those who were bitten and dying. It would have perhaps preserved some from being bitten, but it was of no avail for the bitten who were dying. It was, however, the only solution of which the people could conceive.
But God’s ways are always better: His thoughts are higher than ours and His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8, 9). God’s better way was to provide a remedy for those who were bitten. Hope for the bitten and life for the dying was provided in His mercy. God always has a “better way” of doing things than the brightest of minds can imagine or plan (Hebrews 11:40; 12:24).
Once the deadly venom of sin had entered the human family, there was no remedy for us in any plans or solutions of our own. If help did not come from above, we would have been lost in our own darkness. But God did have a “better way.”
We are not left to our imaginations in linking Numbers 21 and the uplifted serpent with the uplifted Christ. It was He Himself who has drawn our attention to the analogy. The work of the Lord Jesus on the cross is God’s “better way” of dealing with sin and man’s great deadly disease. The cross is an expression of the wisdom of God. He has not only devised a righteous means to put our sins away and save us from the penalty of our sins, but He has provided a salvation which delivers from the poison and power of sins which works in our flesh.
The uplifted Saviour not only gives life, He gives new life, a life which is nothing less than the life of God in the souls of men! And the terms on which He gives this are terms saturated in grace. The simple “look” of Numbers 21 is now translated as “believing in Him.” The invitation is just as wide as it goes out to “whosoever.” And in a moment of time, God’s better way works its life-transforming miracle in the soul of the dying sinner. Little wonder the apostle could break-out in his doxology in Romans 11:33-36: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out.”
Go through the book of Numbers and look at the pictures of Christ. You will find some that speak of Him in His life, some in His death; another will picture His resurrection.
Look at the three mentions of “lifted up” in the Gospel of John and link a different truth with each.