..but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live. [NRSV]
The snakes remind us that Moses and the Hebrews were in the wilderness. They were not in their regular place of what now seems like comfort and ease. (Even though the we slaves and had no freedom, they were given food and had regular shelter and a general sense of privacy and home.) In the Wilderness there were no comforts, no food lines, no house, no bed, and snakes. Remembering the scene in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, he and heroin, Marion, they are lowed into the Well of Souls where there were countless asps, lethal vipers in every direction.
“Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?” *Getty Image
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford): “Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?”Indiana Jones: (Passing a torch) “Take this. Wave it at anything that slithers.” Marion: “Thanks. Oh, my God! This whole place is slithering!”
Whether your comfort level is high or low, snakes are the villain from Adam and Eve, to Ka and Mogli, to Harry Potter and Nagini, to the numerous Snakes on an airplane. So it is, they remain a symbol of threat, danger, fear and evil.
One of the most common complaints about God from those who are outside the faith, is that if God is so loving and knowledgable when would God allow evil to harm God’s chosen people? Why do bad things happen to God’s people? Why would a loving God send snakes out to punish grumbling people? Thing how faithfully the Hebrews had done following Moses out of Egypt and traveled in the Wilderness, shouldn’t they at least be allowed some room to complain when the conditions are less than usual and a good bit uncomfortable?
Think about the Wilderness of the world today, don’t we deserve some special protection if not some comforts… The catch is Moses promised them a land of freedom. But that does not mean a freedom from struggle. Even God shows God’s desire and willingness to work six of seven days.
God charges Moses with the task of “Making a poisonous snake” and place it on a pole. I don’t suppose Moses was suppose to make a live poisonous snake? He makes one of bronze and puts it on a pole, and it become a restorative tool of resurrection and resuscitation from those who are bitten by the servants in the wilderness.
God does not stop the snakes from bitting. God does not scare off the snakes and prohibit them from threatening the people. People are still painfully bitten and suffer the affects of poison, but there are offered a remedy… resurrection, as their healing salvation.
Evil is a real power and it causes us pain and suffering. But we have a remedy, we hav a cure, we have Salvation in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ!
The lesson is that we face the painful bite of fear, struggle, pain and death as people of God, but God has a sign that is our salvation: It is found in the resurrection of Christ, raised up on the cross for the world to see, that death no longer is the end. But never everyone is forced to look to God for the salvation.
So what do we do with this passage in our wilderness?
Where is evil biting us?
What is it that threatens our lives?
What brings fear into our sleepless nights?
What worry do we carry to school and work and home each day?
We have a sign::
We have more than a sign, we have a living SAVIOR
not made of bronze, not written in words, not limited to our minds and calculations
Where there is evil in our hearts and the world there will w user and know loss and pain, but there is a hope God will save us, restore us and make us new.
May that day come soon and may we trust God every day until that da comes.