Water for the Thirsty
Weekly Devotional

Water for the Thirsty

A Bronze Snake Lifted Up

Weekly Devotional

‘As the deer pants for streams of water so my soul pants for you, O God’. (Psalm 42:1)
‘…Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink”…’ (John 7:37)

The brief account of the bronze snake hidden away in Numbers 21:4-9 is probably better known than many other Old Testament accounts of similar brevity, owing to the fact that it is referred to by Jesus himself in John 3:14-15:

‘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

This is an interesting parallel that Jesus is drawing – But what was He getting at?

In the Numbers account, we are told that as the people continue their God-directed route through the desert, they

‘…grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses…’ (Numbers 21:4-5)

They even whine against the food that God has been providing for them, the daily provision of manna:

‘…Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!’ (V. 5)

As a result the Lord sends judgment in the form of a plague of venomous snakes, and many die.

Under this punishment, the people confess to Moses,

‘We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us’... (V.7)

The people beg Moses to intercede with God, and so Moses prays for them.

In response God instructs Moses to,

‘…Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live’. (V.8)

So Moses casts a bronze snake and places it on a pole, and it has just the effect that God had ordained.

What we have here is an ungrateful people, standing in judgment of what God has done, and questioning their leader. They face the judgment of God, and the only release from that judgment is a provision that God himself makes, which they receive by simply looking to the bronze serpent.

The situation of Nicodemus is not so very different in John 3.

His opening remarks suggest that he sees himself as capable of standing in judgment of Jesus,

‘Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him’. (John 3:1-2).

In fact Nicodemus really has very little understanding of what Jesus is talking about,

‘You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things?’ (V.10).

The world is condemned and perishing. Its only hope is in the provision that God makes, in something else that is lifted up on a pole, or more precisely, in someone who is lifted up on a cross.

This is the first occurrence of the term “lifted up” in John’s gospel, and as the gospel unfolds, it becomes almost a technical expression for Jesus’ crucifixion.

The only remedy, the only escape from God’s judgment, depends on looking to this provision God has made.

Our only hope is to look to the One who was hoisted on a pole.

We must look to, and believe in the Son of Man who is “lifted up” if we are to have eternal life.

This is the Gospel message prefigured in the history of Israel’s wanderings in the desert.

Have a good week looking to Jesus,

Pastor Barry

16th August 2009

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