February 20, 2010

Num 21-22: The Snake and the Donkey

Posted in Disobedience, Sin Nature tagged , , , , , , , , at 9:51 pm by Steve

Raising up the brass snake is a metaphor that Jesus uses to describe his own sacrifice. When the people complained and grumbled against God’s grace, snakes infiltrated the camp and began inflicting pain and suffering on the people. Moses was instructed to raise a brass snake on a pole. The brass snake was raised, not to drive out the snakes, but to heal any who had been bitten by them and experienced their venom.

NOTE: Brass is an alloy of two metals, copper and zinc, and is often associated with sacrifice and sin.

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” John 3:14-15

Now, someone in that situation, with the threat of death looming close, might feel that surely he must actively do something to rescue himself from the effect of the poison.  But the Lord was showing that He must do the work.  Every snakebite victim in that particular circumstance in the wilderness was to take the passive role of trusting the Lord for the miracle of healing.  He was to merely believe God’s words, and show his trust by looking to that one way of rescue that the Lord had made available, the brass snake on the pole.  He may not have fully understood.  He may have thought it foolish.  He may have considered it an insult to his intelligence.  He may have thought such a simple act woefully inadequate.  But regardless of what one might think, the Lord had spoken!  To refuse, quite frankly showed one’s prideful rebellion against the Lord and His words.  To refuse showed one’s stubborn insistence upon trusting himself and his own inadequate resources.  To refuse was to perish! Only God’s miraculous power could reverse the effects of that poison.  Every effort of man to save himself failed and resulted in certain death.  But every soul who humbly believed God’s promise there in the wilderness, and showed his faith by looking to that brass snake, was instantly healed.

Why do you suppose God didn’t drive out the snakes?

Does it make a difference that God provides a cure without destroying the curse?

What is the snake whose venom we suffer under and for which Jesus is the cure?

In the story of Balaam and the donkey I think part of the message here is that sometimes circumstances that make us angry and frustrated often protect us from other more dangerous harms. Balaam beat his donkey three times before he understood that his donkey was actually protecting him from dangers he could not see.

Have you ever been angry and frustrated things didn’t go as you had planned, only to find out later it would have been disastrous if they had?

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