Many people have asked what was the significance of the bronze snake that Moses raised in the desert. In today’s episode, Pastor Conrad Mbewe dives into the book of Numbers 21 and John 3 to give us an answer to that question.
“What was the significance of the bronze snake that Moses raised in the desert? Well, thankfully, it’s a Biblical question and therefore, what does Scripture say?
God’s Snakes of Judgement
The story is found in Numbers chapter 21 and beginning with verse 4 because it’s a very short passage let me quickly read it. It says “From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people so that many people of Israel died.”
God’s People Repent and Live
So that is the first thing, God judged the people. And because of his judgment, many individuals died. And the judgment was the snakes that God sent among them. In Numbers 21:7, “And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 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.” Well, that’s where the story comes from. Moses prayed to God and God in a miraculous way enabled a situation where anyone who was bitten by these snakes would look at this snake that was put up on a pole by Moses. And consequently, the poison in his body was neutralised and the person would live. Now, that’s the Old Testament story. What does it mean for us today?
The Lifted Saviour
To appreciate that we go to John chapter 3. In John chapter 3 the Lord Jesus Christ tells us the significance of that account. John 3:13. The Bible says “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven. The Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in he may have eternal life.”
In other words, there is a spiritual application to what took place in the days of Moses. And it is this: we have sinned against God. God has pronounced death upon us all, because of the sin of Adam and our own sin. However, as Moses lifted up the bronze snake in the desert, Jesus was lifted up on Calvary. He died our death so that we could now be forgiven. The challenge that comes to us today, therefore, is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we believe in him, as the Bible itself tells us in that most famous verse. “Whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but instead have everlasting life.” God has so loved the world. That’s the good news. And that indeed is the application.
Trusting in the Finished Work of Christ
I’ll read that famous verse to you, John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” That’s the significance of that Old Testament event. It is this, that you deserve to perish in hell because of your sin. But another has been put there in your place, Jesus Christ. He has paid the full price for your sin. Just as the Israelites simply had to look up to that bronze snake in order not to die. You too, all you need to do is by faith trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ and you will be saved from hell. Well that’s the significance of that Old Testament event. I hope you have been helped to appreciate it from scripture itself in simply answering ‘what does scripture say?'”