There’s no way to write a blog about Numbers 21 without talking about the poisonous snakes. Oh, the snakes. Here’s how the story reads: "Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, 'We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.' So Moses prayed for the people. The Lord said to Moses, 'Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.' So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived." (vs 6-9)
From the story, it’s clear that it was not snake venom, but lack of faith, that was most dangerous to the people. I mean, since when is faith the antidote to poison? How about sucking out the poison from the bite? A shot? A doctor?
No, all that was required for healing and salvation was for the Israelites to look at the bronze serpent that had been lifted up on the pole and trust that the promised healing would occur. If this isn’t a direct lesson about sin and its cure, I don’t know what is! For what is sin, if not pure poison?
In fact, human beings were thrown into our current predicament because of the encounter Eve had with a snake. That snake (Satan) convinced her to drink the poison and buy into his lies about God. These lies quickly produced an unhealthy fear of God in both Adam and Eve... and we’ve been afraid of Him ever since.
What is the only antidote to this poison? Faith in the One who was uplifted on a pole. Jesus said it Himself: "If I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to myself." (Jn 12:32) That’s it. God is the only Savior. Without Him, the poison will kill us. The lies, the fear, the sin will destroy us. If God doesn’t win us back to faith and trust in Him, we’re doomed.
The other thing that was interesting to me about this story was that God didn’t remove the snakes. Did you notice that? That’s what the people asked Moses to pray for — specifically that God would take away the snakes. But He didn’t do that! Instead, He made a way for the people to find healing in the midst of the crisis. He didn’t remove the problem; He provided a solution.
I think God still works this way. I’m sure you have heard the saying that goes something like this: God doesn’t promise a way out, but a way through. This is exactly how He’s dealt with the whole sin problem, isn’t it? He didn’t make it impossible for His creatures to rebel, nor did He stamp out sin once it had arisen in His universe. Instead, He has provided healing for us in the midst of the crisis. He didn’t remove the problem of sin; He provided a solution.
I’m trying to take this lesson to heart in every area of my life. Even though I’m often caught up in praying for God to "remove the snakes" (since I think that’s the only way I can find relief), the truth is that God is the only Savior! That goes for the physical realm, spiritual realm, emotional realm, financial realm, and every other realm you can think of. It doesn’t matter how well off we think we are (or how bad off we think we are!), without God, there is no security. Only He can heal. Only He can save!