“The LORD said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live."
12 years ago, I flew to Kenya to help care for my mother who was dying from breast cancer. One night, after my sister and I changed shifts, I made my way to my bedroom, yawning with fatigue and ready to snatch a few hours of rest, before getting back to caring for mom again the next morning. I opened the door sleepily, too tired to turn on the lights, and began to walk across the floor to my bed, suddenly I felt an unexplainable chill run down my spine. I can’t explain it, but I couldn’t move, and I couldn’t breathe. Slowly, I lifted my hand to the light switch and turned on the lights, now fully awake and in flight mode, and then I saw “IT.” Right in the middle of my path on the floor, lay a black snake head raised, ready to strike, …I bolted, shutting the door behind me. Someone braver than I dealt with it later.
In Numbers 21: 4-9, the children of Israel are bitten by poisonous snakes in the desert for daring to complain against Moses and against God. After spending 400 years in Egypt as slaves to Pharaoh; after working under the most cruel and severe conditions; God had commanded Pharaoh to let the people go, but Pharaoh said, “No!” God went to bat for Israel, sending ten plagues to the land, before Pharaoh relented.
On the circuitous way to the promised land the children of Israel forgot God’s promises, and in their impatience, they began to grumble, mumble and complain against Moses and against God. “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!” Have you ever found your self in such an ungrateful frame of mind on your way to your promised land? Have you ever caught yourself grumbling against God because of the obstacles in your path? The Bible records, that the Lord sent poisonous snakes which bit the people and many Israelites died. Recognizing their error, the people repented. And God instructed Moses to fashion a bronze snake and put it on a pole, so that anyone who was bitten, could look at the snake on the pole and live.
However, it is not easy to look away from a snake. I know, because on that night, many years ago, I was transfixed by the unusual sight of a snake on my bedroom floor, and I froze for what seemed an eternity, even though it was just a few seconds. The memory haunts me to this day. What about you? What sort of poisonous snake haunts you and threatens your life? What sort of snake are you transfixed by that you cannot tear your gaze from it? What sort of snake has sunk its poison into your mind, heart and soul? Is it anger, conceit, envy, disillusionment, greed, jealousy, pride, resentment, unforgiveness or something else?
Look up and live! The same Merciful God who sent healing to the children of Israel in the desert when they repented, is ready to heal you now in your repentance, if you will just look up from whence your help comes (Psalm 121: 1-2). Quit looking around; quit looking down; and quit looking sideways. Just raise your head and heart to him; look up! As he did for the Israelites, God has gone to bat for you with a perfect sacrifice: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16)”. Look up my friend, tear your gaze away from the poisonous snakes of this world; look up at the Cross of Jesus Christ, he was crucified and hung up there for you. Look up my friend; be healed and live!
Almighty God, forgive me for speaking against your Holy name; forgive me for my ingratitude. You have given me more than I deserve. My blessings are too many to count. Today, I am turning my back on all my grumbling and murmuring, and I am looking to you and to the Cross of Jesus Christ, that I might live. Amen.