Patience, Discontentment and snakes in the desert

In my daily studies I’ve started to get back into some of my Theology studies from school and study the Old Testament books grouped into the Pentatuech (or the Christian name for the Torah, the first 5 books of the bible). I think these are often overlooked by people but they are, absolutely, the foundation of the Christian faith and great tools to learn from in our lives.

This morning, with a super sore throat, I’m here in my apartment putting in my own time in the word (and not infecting everyone at my church). I’ve been spending more time listening to podcasts lately and today listened to Todd Nighswonger of Cornerstone church in Simi Valley, CA. He spoke on exactly what I had gotten back into reading and from the book of Numbers. Here’s what I read:

Numbers 21: 4-9

The Bronze Snake

4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea,[a] to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”

6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

8 The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

So let’s set this up…The Israelites have been wandering the desert for many years at this point (remember, they were on a 40 year journey to the Promised Land) and are getting a little impatient. I’m sure if you were told by someone that you were going to be wandering the desert for 40 years looking for a promised land that no one person is really sure where it’s at you may not be as excited as you should be. These people were feeling just that.

But wait, God was providing food right? Yes, he was giving them Manna (a sweet “honey like” seed or grain and Quail (bird/meat) to eat and providing water in a desolate and lifeless desert that never should have sustained these things. So what’s the big deal? What’s their problem? Imagine your favorite food in the whole world…got it? Ok, now imagine eating it for every meal…for 40 years…every day. Would you get sick of it? Probably. If it was the only thing to eat and was provided for free would you be discontent with it? The Israelites sure were. They were so sick of the food and the terrible desert conditions that they lashed out against Moses and God (v.5).

How could they be so displeased? Moses is leading them to the land that God (creator of the earth and source of salvation and all life if you’re keeping score at home) has laid out just for them and they are complaining? So God shows them it could be way worse by releasing hoards of venomous snakes amongst the people, even killing some of them.

God then instructs Moses to create a snake and put it on a pole. I’m sure Moses thought “ok, I will but…what is this going to do?” God says that “…anyone who is bitten can look upon it and live (v.8).” Don’t miss the point here! The staff is representative of the Lord!

Fellas, what did we get from this? 1. The Lord provides us with so much! Never be unhappy with what has been given to you by grace and mercy. Use these gifts for good and continuing the Kingdom. Lashing out at God is not the answer and eventually we will be eaten alive by the “snakes” of this world if we allow ourselves to think we can do this on our own. 2. Look to God and you will be saved from all of your selfish ways and thinking. Let’s make a connection here: We always reference John 3:16 as a landmark verse, and it is, but check out John 3:14-15:

14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[a] 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”[b]

So look to Christ continuously and have eternal life. Look, we can’t do it by ourselves. Try and we will fail.


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3 Responses to Patience, Discontentment and snakes in the desert

  1. Nic says:

    Mike, what are your thoughts on God advising Moses to make an idol figure in this situation? I think that it is a little odd that God told Moses to construct an animal figure out of a precious metal and told the people to look up at it in order to save them from a disaster that He sent. you mentioned that you took this as a reference to God but I do not see that in the text. In my observation, larger groups of people like this are ignorant so this act could very easily lead to idolatry in a time where that was heavily prevalent.

  2. Jason Vogel says:

    Good question Nic. I pulled this off of the comentary for those verses from

    “The Jews themselves say it was not the sight of the brazen serpent that cured them, but, in looking up to it, they looked up to God as the Lord that healed them.”

    • Mike Bull says:

      Agreed, good question. I could see how people might take this the wrong way. Then again, God said to “have no idols before me” or essentially of other Gods and in this case, this is a symbol to look to God or remind them to look to God. Similar to us seeing a cross, fish, etc. and thinking about God.

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