And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people,and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord,and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.And Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that everyone that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.
Many times in the book of Numbers we read about the complaints and the murmurings of the Israelites against Moses and God. As we can see here, they long to go back to Egypt, where they had food and drink enough to be satisfied. Instead, they are thirsting and hungering as they follow Moses through the wilderness. Some speak up against Moses and against God. They are discontent, they do not believe that God can provide for them. They have forgotten that in Egypt they were slaves and an oppressed people. They do not look upon the fact that God is leading them to Canaan, the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
Therefore, the Lord sends fiery snakes upon the people, who bite them and injure them greatly. This causes their murmuring to abate, and they repent. Moses makes a serpent of brass, and whoever looks upon it will be healed of their sin. All they have to do is merely look upon the serpent and they shall be healed. (they merely looked upon the serpent not to as an aid in remembering any one person like in Roman Catholic theology) Likewise, in the Gospel, all you have to do is look upon Christ, and you shall be saved. The story of the fiery serpent has a parallel in John 3:14-16:
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Let us remember, when Jesus says:“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart:and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
What does this mean for us? We are the church which wanders in the wilderness. Though we may be oppressed,marginalized, mocked by every television show out there, and not have the niceties of the world, still, we have the Lord, Who is our greatest resource.He provides for us and gives us what we need, and lets us not be tempted more than what we can bear. God brought us out of sin (out of Egypt), and is leading us into His Kingdom (symbolized by Canaan). He has chosen us to be His people.He will be our God, and we shall be His people, and He will walk among us, even if it be by His Holy spirit here on earth.
Therefore let our souls not be troubled but let us have faith and take strength to walk the good walk with the Lord. Amen.