Johnson City Record Courier
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The Serpent Lifted Up in the Wilderness
Thursday, December 13, 2012 • Posted December 13, 2012

We learn from the Hebrew writer that the Law of Moses foreshadowed good things to come (Heb. 10:1). The Old Testament is full of types and the shadows cast by our Lord Jesus who would be the substance and fulfillment of each shadow. Such is the case in Numbers 21 when God’s people became very impatient as they traveled through the wilderness. They began to murmur and complain about God and His servant Moses. Their concept of God was that He had brought them out of Egypt only to allow them to die in the wilderness. Out of rebellion, they complained about the lack of food and water. They even went so far as to act as if the manna God miraculously provided was worthless! As a result of Israel’s rebellion, God sent deadly, fiery serpents among His people and many died. Full of remorse, 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” (Num. 21:7). God’s answer to Moses’ prayer and remedy for their suffering was a brazen serpent lifted up on a pole. The one who had been bitten needed only to look upon this serpent and they would live (Num. 21:8-9). The lifting up of this brazen serpent is a type of Christ who was lifted up on the cross to taste death for us (Heb. 2:9). Jesus said, “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 should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). From the type of the brazen serpent we learn something about the nature of sin. The Israelites sinned by speaking against God and Moses, and as a result, they died. In the New Testament we learn that, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Death is the end result of sin (Rom. 5:12). While each and every human being is born into a world where sin is, we are not born sinners (Ezek. 18:20). Everyone dies physically as a consequence of the presence of sin in the world brought about by Adam’s sin. But we only die spiritually as a consequence of our own sin. Since all have sinned “and come short of the glory of God” we must all take sin seriously (Rom. 3:23). We also learn from this Old Testament shadow that, in order for man to be redeemed and brought back to God, something must die. Jesus, the antitype, said, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24). He was the one who provided the final remedy for sin by His own death (1 Tim. 1:15). He bore our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Pet. 2:24). Just as the brazen serpent was lifted up as a remedy for the people’s affliction, Jesus Christ would be lifted up on the cross as our remedy for sin. Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). Make no mistake about it, salvation can only be found in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; 2 Tim. 2:10). The brazen serpent also serves as a type of Christ in that those who want to be saved must come to understand that it is their own sin that has caused them to be alienated from God (Is. 59:1-2; Eph. 2:12). Sinners must also believe that Jesus’ death is the healing power of God expressed on the cross. Those who have been bitten by sin can look at the uplifted Jesus in faith, believing He is the only one who can bring spiritual healing (Matt. 9:12-13). John chapter three teaches us a lot about what it means to believe in Jesus. First, it means to believe that God is the loving Father Jesus said He was. Second, it means to believe that Jesus is God and that everything He says is true. Third, it means to obey His voice. Just as the brazen serpent saved only those who looked upon it, Jesus “became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:9). Jesus said, “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on Him” (John 3:36). Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). The new life Jesus offers comes as a result of the new birth. Eternal life only comes because Jesus was lifted up from the earth. He is the only cure for sin. He is the only one who can heal your soul (Ps. 41:4). He was lifted up for you; will you look to Him?

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