'As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness'


“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:14-17 (Read v. 14-21)

In Numbers 21:4-9 is the account of the children of Israel and the bronze serpent which Moses lifted up on a pole. The people became discouraged along the way in the wilderness and spoke against both God and Moses, questioning why God and His servant Moses brought them out into such a desolate land where they had neither food nor water. Because of their lack of faith and their evil words, the LORD God sent fiery serpents among the people to bite them, and many of the people died.

The people then acknowledged their sin and asked Moses to pray to the LORD that He remove the serpents from them. Instead, God commanded Moses to make a serpent and lift it up on a pole so that anyone bitten by a serpent could look at the serpent on the pole and live rather than die. As God commanded, Moses made a serpent of bronze and mounted it on a pole, and anyone who was bitten by one of the fiery serpents, if he looked in faith at the bronze serpent, he lived.

In the same way, because of our sinful and unbelieving hearts, we do not follow after the LORD God and walk in His ways. We grumble and complain of His commandments and of the things which God permits to arise in our lives. Like Adam and Eve, who failed to trust in the Word of the LORD and ate of the tree of which God had commanded them not to eat, so we fail to trust in the Word of the LORD and so often think we know better than God what is good for us.

Thus, when God says, “You shall not,” we question His goodness and wisdom and do those things He says not to do. When He tells us what He would have us do, again we think we know better and do our own thing instead.

In the same way as God did not immediately remove the fiery serpents from among His people, so He has not removed from us all the consequences of our sin. Like Adam and Eve, we must suffer sorrow and hardship in this life and finally die (cf. Psalm 90:7-9).

But God has provided a way for us to live rather than suffer the eternal death and damnation we deserve. As He promised Adam and Eve the Seed of the woman who would crush the serpent’s head (cf. Gen. 3:15), and as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness that all who, in faith, looked to it could live (cf. Num. 21:4-9), so God sent His only begotten Son into the world, the Seed of the woman, to win for us eternal salvation (cf. John 3:16).

Though we are still bitten by the old evil serpent and have the poison of sin flowing through our hearts and veins, God in His great love for all mankind sent His only begotten Son into the world. And, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so also Jesus, the Son of God and Son of man, was lifted up on the cross when He was crucified and condemned for the sins of the whole world.

And, as those who looked in faith upon the bronze serpent lifted up by Moses lived, so also sinners today can look in faith to Christ Jesus, who was lifted up on the cross and crucified for our sins and has risen again in victory; and those who look to Jesus in faith will not die eternally but live!

Jesus, when He was lifted up upon the cross, paid in full the just penalty for the sins of all. His resurrection is proof (cf. Rom. 4:23ff.). And those who look to Jesus in faith will not be condemned to hell for their sins because, in Jesus, atonement was made and, through faith in Him, God graciously forgives sins and gives to all who believe everlasting life!

Those who will not repent and turn to Jesus and His cross in faith remain dead in their trespasses and sins and will suffer the eternal and just consequences for their sins (cf. John 3:18-21; 8:24).

Because Jesus was lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, we who should die for our sins are, through faith in Jesus, given instead the everlasting glories of heaven. How great God’s love toward us is in Christ Jesus!

Dear Jesus, I have sinned and turned aside from loving, trusting and honoring You with my life. Do not deal with me as I deserve on account of my sin. I look to You and Your cross for salvation. Forgive my sin, cleanse my heart and grant me life eternal with You in Your everlasting kingdom.

[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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