KEY SCRIPTURE Numbers 21:5-9 5 5 And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. 6 And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. 7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. 9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived. RELEVANCE In Matthew 7:13, Jesus issued a warning to all believers, "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:" The desert walk was the Israelites' Strait Gate. The Lord brought them via a narrow way to make them a people of single-minded devotion to Him so they could live a life of power, praise, honour, purity and, therefore, victory. But they said their soul loatheth the light bread—the simple food God specifically provided to cleanse their system of the ways of Egypt. It was a foundational pillar of their new walk.
They wanted freedom, but not this way. Every day had complaints. Strongs Concordance renders loatheth in this scripture as 'abhors.' Think about the pride underpinning a heart that can craft such an abominable word and then spit it at God. And pride it was, not need, because their guide and travelling companion was the living God, the fulfilment of all needs. V6 shows God's response. "What did you just say?" "If you hate what I have for you, I'll give you a taste of what Satan has in store. Maybe that'll stop your whining." He sent them serpents which bit and killed them. When Satan bites us, and the poison flows through our lifeblood, we die an agonising spiritual death. John 10:10 says, Satan come steal, kill and destroy, and that's what they continuously allowed him to do.
This ties in with Luke 11:11, "If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?" These Israelites weren't sons. No son speaks to his father like that. They thought they were His children because they were in the same group. But their hearts were filled with the belligerence of Satan, and their mouths breathed out the manipulative flames of discourtesy to bait God into doing something for them. They wanted the honour of sons without the behavioural restrictions of progeny. Well, He did do something! Like a rude child challenging his parent once too often, the insubordinate Israelites' focus quickly changed from food and drink to personal safety. Taking God's mercy as a sign of weakness wasn't a good idea. V7. Only after their calculated antagonism backfired—the antagonism of fake victims— did they repent. But false humility is transparent, so God took his time providing relief. Instead of the instant action they hoped for, God told Moses to create a fitting saviour for them—to make a bronze serpent on a pole, which took time. Salvation from death only came to those who looked at the poled serpent. Due to their lack of faith in God, He forced them to have faith in a brass serpent—an idol. What a ridiculous scenario. What an absolute mess they'd made of their lives through unbelief. The venom of unbelief only surges through the veins of those who indulge it. I believe the serpents would not have touched the families of Moses, Aaron, Joshua, or Caleb. This punishment was for lack of faith and the consequential presumption birthed from it. Hebrew 6:1 sheds some light on the works of lack-of-faith people, "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God," They become guilty of continually laying foundations but never building, never going from faith to faith, glory to glory, and never increasing their honour of God which comes through good works and successful trials of faith. How many times did Caleb and Joshua speak to them about faith as they travelled? All the campfire chats about the benefits of believing God and His promises. But we can't transfer faith. It's individual. Like swimming or riding a bike, each of us must do it independently. Faithless people can be led to water—to all the scriptures, testimonies and stories, but in the end, they are the ones who have to drink and believe in what they cannot see. For them, that's a problem, as it means accountability for their faith. PRAYER Dear Lord, I'm constantly learning how to honour you more, especially with my mouth and good works. Please help me to grow in these things, so my honour of you comes naturally.
Photo by Tbel Abuseride