Life of Moses: Saved by the Serpent

Peter Barnes: Numbers 21:4-9

(17 November 2019)


This is the last recorded grumble of the Israelites in the wilderness. The intriguing thing is that it is not a lamb on Moses’ pole but a serpent, the symbol of evil, and of Satan himself (note John 3:14-15).

1. The curse of sin and death.

– 21:4-5. ‘Count your blessings’ is easier to sing than to put into practice. God punishes them with fiery serpents – 21:6.

– Israel is brought to repentance or to some kind of remorse – 21:7. The devil is pictured as a serpent – Gen.3:1; Rev.12:9.

2. The provision of the bronze serpent.

– 21:8-9. There is no human solution. Looking at a bronze serpent is a strange antidote for a snake bite. Jesus draws our attention to it – John 3:13-15. Jesus is the Lamb (John 1:29) who by substitution is treated as a serpent – Matt.27:46; 2 Cor.5:21; Gal.3:13.

– The Lamb suffers as a serpent. He does not call down God’s favour upon Himself but wrath in order that sinners might enjoy the favour.

3. Receiving the benefits of that provision.

– 21:8-9. All it says is ‘look’! Isaiah 45:22 was the verse that was used to convert Charles Spurgeon.

– it is one of the biblical examples of something being compulsory without being saving – 2 Kings 18:4. If you rejected the bronze serpent, you died of snake venom; if you trusted in the bronze serpent, you died of superstition. If you reject baptism, you are breaking God’s Word; if you are trusting in the waters of baptism, you are also breaking God’s Word. God gives us means to help us.

Look to Him, because if you look to Him, He will not look away.