And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. – Numbers 21:9
Scripture reading: Numbers 21:1-9
The people of Israel are back at Kadesh and the first encounter with the Canaanites does not go very well. Israel suffers a defeat. But Israel dedicates itself to the LORD. The LORD gives a victory. Victory is by faith alone.
Instead of going directly into the land they have to make a detour (see chapter 20). The new route leads through difficult terrain. The people grumble against the LORD and Moses. They accuse Moses of evil motives: he led them in this wilderness to kill them. They want to go back to Egypt. As a punishment, the LORD sends poisonous serpents. This discipline hurts the people and they confess they have sinned. As a remedy to the bites of the serpents, Moses has to make a bronze serpent and anyone who looks at the serpent will live.
This is a remarkable way of dealing with the people. The serpents are not taken away, but as people are bitten, they have to look at this symbol and they will live. Why would they? The only reason is that the LORD had said so. Israel has to trust the word of the LORD. There is nothing magic in the bronze serpent. Looking at it is the expression of their faith in God’s promises.
The Lord Jesus referred to this incident in His discussion with Nicodemus (John 3). As looking at the serpent gave healing and life, so believing in Jesus Christ gives life. Entering the Promised Land is by faith alone.
Suggestions for prayer
Thank the Lord for His grace in Jesus Christ. Pray for the strengthening of your faith.
This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College.