- What do you think God’s purpose is when He directly punishes His people?
- Do you think He punishes because of His anger, or because He desires people to come closer to Him?
Read Numbers 21:4-9 (HCSB)
4 Then they set out from Mount Hor by way of the Red Sea to bypass the land of Edom, but the people[b] became impatient because of the journey. 5 The people spoke against God and Moses: “Why have you led us up from Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread or water, and we detest this wretched food!” 6 Then the Lord sent poisonous[c][d]snakes among the people, and they bit them so that many Israelites died.
7 The people then came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede with the Lord so that He will take the snakes away from us.” And Moses interceded for the people.
8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake image and mount it on a pole. When anyone who is bitten looks at it, he will recover.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and mounted it on a pole. Whenever someone was bitten, and he looked at the bronze snake, he recovered.
Here we see the Israelites complaining against God and God chooses to punish them by sending poisonous snakes to them.
- What was the response from the people of Israel?
- They asked Moses to intercede for them before God.
- The same people that complained against God now begged for God’s help.
- After the people came to God, what sort of relief did God provide for them?
- He commanded that Moses raise up a bronze serpent. If anyone was bit, they could simply look at the bronze serpent and God would heal them of any poison.
- If God provided this bronze serpent after the people turned back to Him, what can we know about the purpose God had for punishing Israel in the first place?
- His purpose was specifically to turn the people back to Himself.
- We must keep in mind that this is in the context of a group. When God punishes a group in any way, it seems His purpose is always to turn the attention of that group back to Himself.
- Here we see people die as a result of God’s punishment. Why do you think a loving, life-giving God would bring about death?
- This act does not discredit God’s character in any way. The simple truth is that any rebellion against God (who is life), earns death for the people who rebel.
- In fact, if God allows anyone to live after they rebel against Him (which he does), then He has shown great mercy.
- We even see this God sending His Son, Jesus Christ, as a substitute for us. He received the punishment (death) that we each deserved because of our sin. God has great mercy!
If sin brings death and God provides life for those who turn genuinely to Him, the snake in the wilderness becomes a picture of Jesus.
- We look back to Genesis 3 and see the first sin. That sin separated people from God.
- In John 3 we see Jesus actually saying that He must be lifted up like the serpent in the wilderness so that everyone who genuinely looks to Him would be cured of the poison called sin.
- “Just as Moseslifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in Him will[i] have eternal life” (John 3:14-15 HCSB).
- Our question then becomes: Do you feel poisoned by the sinfulness of the world? Are you dead spiritually?
- The cure is simply to look genuinely to Jesus. All those who believe in Him, not just that He was a historical figure, will have eternal life.