The Bronze Serpent (Week 20, Part 6/7) Numbers 11-24 | May 9-15 – powered by Happy Scribe
Let’s put ourselves in the context of where the ancient Israelites are still wandering in the wilderness, not yet in the Holy Land. So if we look at the map, they have made their way along the Eastern side of the Holy Land, what we call the Transjordan, or are east of the Jordan River. Technically, they’re not east of the Jordan River because the Jordan River flows into the Dead Sea here, but they’re making their way up what’s called the King’s Highway. And there’s all these kingdoms like the Edomites, the Moabites, and the Ammonites. And some of these groups are resisting this large group of people coming to their territory.
And no surprise, humans aren’t that different. Typically, when a large group of unrelated people show up in our communities, often people wonder, like, do they belong? Should they be here? And often we resist. And that’s what we see happening to the ancient Israelites.
And God empowers them when they’re faithful, to be able to overcome their enemies or their adversaries before we jump a little too far. This is also in the context of the poisonous serpent story where the people are complaining to God, like, you’ve left us out here just to wander. Life has been really difficult, and God Enos them poisonous serpents to heal them. He asked them to act on faith. He asked them to look upon a Brazen serpent that Moses had fashioned, and if they looked, they would be healed.
And many people chose not to look. I think this is a very compelling thing for us to consider. What has the Lord given us today in terms of prophets and medicine, science or other answers that if we would just look and trust, we would find temporal, physical and spiritual Salvation versus choosing in the pride of our hearts to not pay attention to the answers that God has provided to the miracles that God has put forth as follow nature humans, we sometimes feel like we know better. We don’t want to be told what to do. And sometimes we lack humility.
And I hope that all of us can look at the story of the serpents, the poison serpents, and the Israelites who died from not looking at the miraculous Brazen serpent that we can say to ourselves, Let me not be like them. Let me learn from that lesson that I can be better, that I can learn to trust God and to trust the resources and the miracles that he’s brought to this life. So all that happens before the Israelites start making their way up through the lands of Edom, Moab, and the Ammonites. So I have this resource here where you can look at chapters 22 and so forth and look at all the locations on Google Maps of where these things are happening. So it’s a free link.
And I built this so that people can actually not get confused by the geography of the Old Testament. There’s a lot of locations and even I sometimes I’m reading the Old Testament I’m like I can’t remember where that is. And so I often turn to this tool to remind myself where are things happening in the Old Testament. So as we look in Numbers 21, it’s almost like a recounting of military campaigns. It’s almost like they marched here and had this fight and then this happened.
What I do find particularly compelling from these passages is when the Lord tells people to be not afraid. Now this is military language. It actually shows up in other accounts in the ancient Near East. This language of have courage and being not afraid. It usually shows up in the context of military encounters and it’s interesting that if we look at the way God is described in Scriptures, sometimes it’s described as a great warrior the Lord of Saba o the Lord of Hosts.
He is all powerful. He can fight our battles. Therefore we shouldn’t be afraid. We should have courage. And in these moments when we feel afraid, we need to remember he is the Lord of Hosts.
He is the one the great battle commander who can overcome all opposition. We just have to trust him. Ultimately, God is in charge and nobody can stand in the path of God. Its chosen people. That’s what I find is so compelling about these stories.