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Jesus in Numbers

January 28, 2022

“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.” -John 3:14-15; Numbers 21

We do dumb things when we’re tired.

Years now into their wearisome march around the wilderness, the children of Israel complained about everything—and especially against God and about Moses:

“Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” Still and all, Moses persevered with them and prayed for these complainers. “We want to go back to live in slavery in Egypt ….”

Finally, God said, “Enough,” and put an end to their incessant murmuring with a surprising illustration. He sent fiery serpents among the people, which bit them, and many people died.

In this tough love, God created a wonderful object lesson and provision for their relief. He told Moses to make a pole with a fiery serpent on it and to lift it up. If those who had been bitten looked up at it in faith, they would live.

Some would say that sounded like nonsense, and they didn’t do it. And they died, of course.

Centuries later when our Lord Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, He said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” How was He lifted up? On a cross. Our Lord was made sin for us. On that cross, He not only took Barabbas’ place, but each of our places.

God permitted this because He loved you, but He just can’t save you by His love. It doesn’t say, “God so loved the world that He saved the world.” That wasn’t the solution. Instead, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son …” (John 3:16).

The only thing God asks you to do is to “look”—look and live; look to Jesus, lifted up on the cross. His Son does not deserve to die but is taking your place there. We are each lost, hell-doomed sinners who need to look to the Lord Jesus Christ in order to live. It’s just as simple as that.