The Gospel in Numbers (Part 2): The Bronze Serpent

Hello again! I took a short break from this series to post an article that I wrote for The Rebolution, and also to take a week off for Spring Break. But I’m jumping right back into the series with my personal favorite. 

As I began this post, I was struggling with what to say. I think sometimes the Gospel seems rather redundant. Many of us have heard the Gospel our entire lives and maybe we want to move on to something new. However, this is the lie that Satan wants us to believe. Because our hearts are so fickle, we desperately need to be saturated with the Gospel in order to be focused on the road before us. We cannot continue this race without first keeping the Gospel continually before us so we can remember our constant need for a Savior. So don’t be tempted to simply forget or ignore the importance of what Jesus has done for you, but take time to meditate on it. 

I think it is especially important to remember this as we read Bible stories that we have heard for years. But do we take the time to see the Gospel through them?

As I think of various stories from the Old Testament that portray the Gospel so beautifully, one story in particular stands out to me. I absolutely love the story of the bronze serpent because it reminds me of my own sinfulness and rebellion, but also of God’s never ending faithfulness and grace. 

Years had passed since Israel’s miraculous redemption from slavery. Pharaoh was defeated, and the Red Sea was parted. The Lord’s hand graciously moved the Israelites as He protected then time and time again. He constantly provided them with food and water in the midst of the wilderness, and led them all along the way. But despite His love and grace, they constantly responded by complaining about their faithful God. Their hearts were rebellious and they turned against their Creator who had done so much for them.

How would He respond?

Because of God’s infinite holiness that requires justice, their rebellion had to be punished. He sent serpents as agents of wrath against the people of Israel. After years of patience with their rebellious hearts, the price for their sin had to be paid.

But this was definitely not the end of the story.

In an astonishing act of grace, He responded to His people’s desperate cries for mercy and commanded Moses to create a bronze serpent. Moses then raised onto a pole, calling out to the dying that if they would only look upon this serpent, they would be saved from this wrath. By simply looking upon it, their dying bodies were mended and their lives took on a new meaning and purpose. How gracious of the Lord to send such deliverance!

This magnificent example of God’s grace paints a vivid picture of His work on the cross for our sake. Jesus tells Nicodemus in the book of John, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). Just as the serpent was lifted up so that the Israelites could live again, so Christ was raised on the cross for us. By looking to Him as our only Hope of salvation and eternal life, we can be His children.

It is amazing to me that the very serpent that killed the Israelites was the very one that saved them. Our sin is rebellion against a holy God that must be punished. Although God extended His wrath toward us, He also extended His mercy and grace. In the midst of our sin, He saved us! What a grace that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). 

When we had no hope of our own, Christ provided a Savior. I want to call on all of us to remember this and keep it in the forefront of our minds as we go about our lives. Once we have looked upon Christ for our salvation we can no longer return to our former state. Now that we are changed, we are to walk in the Lord’s way and according to His Word. We will have the desire to know Him and live in joy with Him as we live this mere life here on earth for His glory.

Currently our lives are not as they usually are. COVID-19 has spread, leaving most of us in our homes as we wait for society to return to normal. I know it is so tempting to become discontented and bored with the monotony of life as we long for our lives to return to normal. Although this is such an awkward time, we must remember that the Gospel should transform every aspect of our lives, even the waiting. Don’t grow weary of the Gospel’s transforming power, but let this shape your life and produce overwhelming joy even in the chaos.

Even when we had absolutely no hope of our own, the Lord graciously saved us. Let us now praise Him and respond in joy and contentment in this glorious Gospel!

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