Monday 07 April 2014

Bible Book:

“whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.” (v. 9)

Numbers 21:4-9 Monday 7 April 2014


Yesterday we read the account of theraising of Lazarus (John 11:1-45) - the seventh and final signdescribed in John's Gospel which was meant to provide clearevidence of the glory of God revealed though Jesus Christ. The useof miraculous signs is also repeatedly used in the Old Testament toreveal God's power and intent, although they rarely seem to lead tothe Israelites obeying God for very long. Even God is reportedcomplaining that "they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all thesigns that I have done among them" (Numbers 14:11).

In this particularly unusual episode God sends a plague ofpoisonous serpents in response to the repeated complaints andingratitude of the Israelites, only shortly afterwards to provideMoses with a way of healing those bitten, through the use of abronze serpent on a stick. God is seen as both frighteninglypowerful but also willing to listen when people seek forgiveness(verse 7). It might have been easier simply to remove the serpents,but there is clearly a requirement for the people to continue todemonstrate their faith through the need to look at the bronzeserpent after having been bitten in order to be healed (verse9).

 There is always a risk that we place more importance onobjects or traditions and forget what their original intent was. In2Kings 18:4 King Hezekiah is described destroying the bronzeserpent that Moses made as it had become a focus for idol worship.A snake on a staff also features in Greek mythology with the Rod ofAsclepius said to have healing powers and it became central in theAsclepian cult around 300 BC.

However the story in Numbers clearly continued to resonate asJohn's Gospel uses the symbolism of lifting the serpent up todescribe what will shortly happen to Jesus so that "whoeverbelieves in him may have eternal life" (John3:14-15).

To Ponder

  • Pray for those known to you who are in need of healing, and forthose who seek to help them.
  • Are there objects or traditions which now get in the way of ourrelationship with God? Consider how this could be changed.
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