by Allan Knapp
“4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” 6 Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.”
Last week we looked at the Bronze Serpent on the pole and the comparison in John 3 to Jesus on the cross. In the wake of Easter, companion follow-up questions would be “Why would some not look at the serpent?” and “Why do some not believe in Jesus Christ?”
Think about those who would not look after being bitten by a fiery snake. Maybe some were just too sick and couldn’t do it on their own. They needed good friends to transport them to the pole like the guys in Mark 2:3-5 who brought their friend to Jesus and carved up a roof to gain access.
Maybe some just wanted to die. They needed someone to give them reasons for the hope that is in those who believe (1 Peter 3:13-17).
Maybe some felt they did not deserve salvation because their complaining and whining sinfulness was too great a sin to be forgiven. They needed to know it is enough to repent and believe (Mark 1:14-15, Acts 2:37-41).
Maybe they heard mutters from others that the situation is much worse than they thought, more bad things are coming, and the snake might become an idol (2 Kings 18:3-5). They needed to quit listening to those news feeds and find better, truer sources.
Unfortunately, there are people who just can’t understand. In John 11, there are two responses to Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Many believed in Jesus. But some went and tattled to the Pharisees. Based on the grumbling and complaining, there were probably bitten Israelites who wouldn’t believe no matter what miracles occurred right in front of them.
We all know people who have not believed in Jesus. The New Testament gives us a great advantage over the friends of those who would not look at the snake. We know that the Holy Spirit is working to change hearts of stone to hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:22-28), that God hears our prayers (James 5:16), that God wants us to pray repeatedly for our friends (Luke 18:1-8), and that God will always be with us as we are witnesses of the Good News (Matthew 28: 19-20).
Be faithful to what you know. God IS at work. Keep praying that God would provide what your friends need. Keep asking for wisdom on being a servant and a witness.