“Anyone Who Wants to Come”
4th Sunday in Lent
In today’s focal passages, in Numbers 21:2-9, the incident occurred on a high way called the Way of the Red Sea. This was during a time of great discouragement. In the previous chapter we read a lot of discouraging moments and events in their journey as God’s people. Miriam and Aaron died as recorded in Numbers 20:1,22-29. Moses disobeyed God by striking a rock twice (Numbers 20:2-13). The said gesture of Moses disqualified him to reach the Promised Land. Edom had denied the Israelites access to the King’s Highway, direct the route to Canaan, a short cut way to the Promised Land, (Numbers 20:14-21). The said denial forced them to travel through a desolate wilderness. And in Chapter 21, verses 1-3, a fierce campaign had been fought against a tribe of Canaanites.
In the midst of hardships that they experienced, the Israelites broke down morally and spiritually. They continued to voice out their complaint against God and Moses. In verse 5 of chapter 21, the people realized that they were about to die then and there. The Lord in verse 6, sent poisonous snakes, and many were bitten and died. Then in verse 7, the people began to acknowledge their sins and cried out for mercy and deliverance. They asked Moses to pray to the Lord to take the snakes away. In verse 8, the Lord told Moses to fashion a fiery serpent on a pole, which would provide a means of healing. Moses who was also a skilled craftsman quickly designed the emblem. A bronze serpent was cast which would have given off a fiery appearance in the sunlight, making a high visible standard for the people to see and be healed.
We may ask: why did God command Moses to make a bronze serpent which can be considered as a graven image? Isn’t it that Aaron, the brother of Moses disobeyed God by making a golden calf? And why an image of a serpent which is known to be poisonous and a fiery creature? We have to bear in mind that it was God Who instructed Moses to make a bronze snake. God provided a substitute snake, one without poison. He took what was deadly and turned it into a source of life for all who would trust in His way to save the sinners.