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.” 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. Numbers 21:8-9
The constant grumbling and sinning of the Israelites, despite God’s provisions, result in snakes prowling around…biting…killing. Imagine the terror with each strike as the poison makes its way through the bodies. Families, desperate for a way to keep loved ones alive, cry out to Moses to seek God on their behalf to remove the serpents.
The news quickly spreads that Moses is up to something. At God’s direction, he constructs a bronze snake and places it atop a wooden pole. Look to the pole, they say, to the snake on the top. Looking up will keep those bitten from death.
God doesn’t remove the dangerous serpents, but He does provide a way for the Israelites to live despite being bitten. They are to look to the wooden pole.
It is another foreshadowing of Jesus. Hundreds of years after this exchange, Jesus will hang on a wooden pole shedding blood for our grumblings and sins. When we are bitten by the temptation of sin – by the lure of the serpent, Satan – we can look up at Jesus on the cross.
When we look up to Jesus, we too can live, despite the poisonous bites of sin in our lives. Healing comes from the cross.
Questions: Where do you often look when you are bitten by temptation and sin? Do you immediately look up to the cross – to Jesus – and ask for forgiveness?
And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.” Numbers 14:11-12
The Israelites chose not to listen to Caleb and Joshua. Instead, they freak out, grumble, and say they wish they were still in Egypt or dead in the wilderness. Really? They demand a new leader. Commentator David Guzik says, “This was pure rebellion. They said that they did not want God's plan, they did not want God's leaders, and they did not want God's land. They believed that they knew better than God.”
God is done with them, but Moses intercedes on their behalf. God answers Moses's prayer and agrees to let them live, but there will be consequences. No one above the age of 20 will enter the promised land, except Caleb and Joshua (the two spies that tried to encourage the people to enter). The people will wander in the wilderness for 40 years, until this adult generation who rejected the invitation to enter has passed away.
God has good things waiting for His people. It is right in front of them. But they choose to look at the obstacles instead of God’s provision and promise, and they miss out. It happens over and over. We will see it again when Jesus finally arrives. Many just can’t believe God. They are limited by what their feeble minds and eyes can see and understand. They choose fear over faith, and as a result, wander, unfulfilled and without purpose.
How often do we reject God’s plan, God’s appointed authority over us in a season, God’s calling…all because it seems hard or might be painful or we feel unequipped? What might we be missing out on because we are rebelling against God’s plans? How often do we delay the fulfillment of a beautiful calling because we are too afraid to enter when God tells us to? Let’s decide TODAY to choose faith in the Promise-keeper over the lies of the enemy!
Challenge: Spend some time this week quietly with God seeking things He might be wanting you to do. In our busy lives, we often don’t sit still long enough to hear from God. Ask Him for wisdom and for courage to do the things He wants you to do and go to the places He wants you to go.
But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. Numbers 13:30-32
After about a year of traveling through the wilderness toward the promised land, the Israelites have arrived on the border. God instructs Moses to select men to spy out Canaan, the promised land. They are to pick a man from each tribe (remember the 12 tribes from the 12 sons of Jacob, aka Israel) to check out the land, the people living there, the food.
After 40 days of exploring, they return with a report. The land is amazing! The food is amazing! But… the city is fortified and the people are big.
Though all twelve spies saw the exact same things, only two of the twelve – Caleb and Joshua – choose faith over fear. They bravely try to convince the people to go for it. But fear wins out, as it often does.
A year of temporary living. A year of manna for sustenance. A year of God faithfully providing and keeping promises. A year of being unsettled nomads. They are finally at their promised destination, a plentiful land with food they have only dreamed about for a year; with space for permanent dwellings to raise their families. They stand at the edge of the promise of God… and they are too afraid to go in.
After all the miracles they have seen and all that God has done for them, they let fear keep them from entering and stepping into all that God has for them. God will ultimately keep His promise, but the consequences for letting unbelief triumph over faith will be devastating.
Questions: How often do you let fear keep you from stepping into something amazing God has prepared for you? Have you ever had to deal with the consequences of not doing something you knew you should do because of fear?