Today's devotion from Numbers 21.
Numbers offers some really unique accounts, and we're getting into some of the most well known. For example, today we read about an account of the Israelites grumbling against God, but this time God sends venomous serpents against them. As they realize their error, they once again cry out for Moses to intervene on their behalf. When he does, God does not stop the serpents immediately, instead He prescribes a cure for when they are bitten.
At first, we might not understand how looking to an elevated serpentine statue could cause us to look to Christ. After all, it actually crosses my mind that it is almost idolatrous. However in one of the most straightforward teachings of the gospel in the New Testament, Jesus Himself brings Nicodemus back to this event in John 3:14-15.
In light of this, how should we approach Numbers 21 and the typology within it? It begins with the realization of helplessness regarding my need to be saved and my inability to do any thing about it. The people were hopelessly at the mercy of the snakes. It's easy to connect this imagery throughout the bible. The serpent derailed creation in Genesis 3.
You probably already knew this, but the part of the account that I appreciate is the fact that the image they are looking to is the likeness of their tormentors. Why? Why would He not prescribe a cross or crucifix? Why not a preincarnate and prophetic image of Christ? Why the serpent?
Part of the heartbreak of the cross for us as Christians is not just that Christ died, but that He died for us. He died for us because we are worthy of death. He took on punishment and shame for our guilt. It was both, His love and our sin, that held Jesus to that cross, or, maybe better said, it was His love in spite of our guilt. So when I, as a believer saved by the work of Christ, think on the agony of the cross, it is with profound love for my Savior and the deepest of remorse because I see my sin laid on His sinless shoulders.
Today, look. Look on the love of Christ as He is lifted up for our sin. Look on the sin that held Him there. Look on the victory He won over death, hell, and the grave. Look and rejoice.