Snake on a stick

Numbers 21:4-9

How do we explain the bronze serpent of Numbers 21? Well, there are several explanations.

The writer may be offering an origins story, of sorts, for a more ancient symbol. The story could have evolved later to set the stage for something else that happens (See 2 Kings 18:3-4). Many Christians read Jesus into the desert experience. Jesus certainly built on the story to illustrate his ministry and purpose (See John 3:15).

The story itself only prompts further questions. Why was the answer to prayer the form of the people’s punishment? Did it have healing powers? Was it only symbolic? Why didn’t the other snakes go away? How long was the serpent on a pole supposed to be around?

There aren’t many answers in the text.

I’m good with that. It’s not always bad to leave a biblical text with more questions than answers. Some of us with our answers get too comfortable. Always leave room for wrestling with the text.

For today, let’s look at another aspect of the bronze serpent story. Moses made the serpent as a response to his praying to God. The Lord told him to make it to save the people from snake bites. Note, though, the snakes came around to begin with when the people started complaining. They “became discouraged” along their journey together.

Discouragement can do that to us. And discouragement is contagious. How can we focus on what lies ahead of us when we’re filled with complaints? How can we encourage faithfulness to God with a complaining spirit? I’m not sure we can.

So, the Lord didn’t get rid of all the snakes. The people would still need to look at a snake to live from just getting bit by a snake. So, from now on, would they pause a little when they wanted to complain? Maybe that’s a part of the story we can chew on together today.

Complaining keeps your focus on what’s happening. Or what’s not happening or living up to your expectations. As a result, it also keeps you from looking up to the One who has given you life. Salvation and healing. Joy and blessings. So, Lord help us to complain less.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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