Numbers 21:8 - 9
ESV - 8 And the Lord said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live. 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
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"And the people spoke against God, and against Moses, why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loath this light bread. And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore, the people came to Moses, and said, we have sinned; for we have spoken against the Lord. And Moses made a serpent of brass, as instructed and put it upon a pole; and if a serpent had bitten any man, when he looked at the serpent of brass, he lived." Numbers 21: 8,9 Many had already died, and when Moses raised the serpent upon the pole, some would not believe that merely gazing upon that metallic image would heal them; these perished in their unbelief. Yet there were many who had faith in the provision which God had made. Fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters were anxiously engaged in helping their suffering, dying friends to fix their languid eyes upon the serpent. If these, though faint and dying, could only once look, they were perfectly restored. The fatal effects of sin can be removed only by the provision that God has made. Yet they were required to show their faith in the provision which He had made. They must look in order to live. It was their faith that was acceptable with God, and by looking upon the serpent their faith was shown. The people well knew that there was no power in the serpent of brass to cause such a change in those who looked upon it. The healing virtue was from God alone. In His Wisdom He chose this way of displaying His power. By this simple means the people were made to realize that this affliction had been brought upon them by their sins. They were also assured that while obeying God they had no reason to fear, for He would preserve them. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness," even so was the Son of man "lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:14, 15. The lifted bronze snake was foolishness for some of the Israelites, because they couldn't see what good is a statue of a snake when they had actual snake bites (and those died) but those that looked up to it with faith, lived. The cross of Christ is foolishness to those that perish, but to those who look up to it with faith, it is the power of God unto salvation! (1 Cor. 1:18) However, we must be careful to worship Christ and not the cross, idolizing it because many years after the event in the wilderness, some Israelites started worshiping the bronze serpent (as an idol), as if it had saved them, when in fact it was God who saved them, using that means. (2 Kings 18:4)
Why did God use a symbol of death to bring healing life (Numbers 21:8-9)? Is it ironic that medic alert bracelets use the insignia of a snake coiled around a pole to represent medicine? "Just as serpents brought death to the Hebrews because of their sin, and a serpent was lifted up on a pole as the way of temporal salvation, so the first man Adam brought death to all because of his (and our) sin, and the last Adam was lifted up on a tree as the way of everlasting salvation." --Christianity Stack Exchange As when the Hebrew prophet raised [originally So did the Hebrew prophet raise] The brazen serpent high, The wounded looked and straight [quickly] were cured, The people ceased to die. So from the Savior on the cross A healing virtue flows; Who looks to Him with lively faith Is saved from endless woes. For God gave up His Son to death, So generous was His love, That all the faithful might enjoy Eternal life above. --Watts
Shepherds carry a staff to act as a club to ward off bears, wolves, snakes, etc. A snake on a staff represented defeat. Genesis 3:15 is the first prophecy signifying the coming Messiah. Jesus defeated the serpent (Satan) on the cross. Looking upon the brass serpent on the pole (or staff) Numbers 21:8-9, represented an act of faith.
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