A SERPENT ON A POLE AND THE SON OF MAN ON A CROSS
A part of Israel’s history is told in Numbers 21, on their way out of Egypt, shortly before they would enter Canaan. Joseph had been sold by his brethren (Genesis 37:23-28), then into Egyptian slavery. (Verses 29-36). God gave him the interpretation of dreams, and he arose to become second in command over all Egypt, with only the king above him. (Genesis 37:5ff; 39:20-41, esp. verses 39, 40; 40:40). Joseph saved Egypt and his family from starvation. (Genesis 41:47, 57; 42-46). All went well until Joseph died. (Genesis 50:26). A new king arose who did not know Joseph, and he unsuccessfully tried to annihilate the Israelites. (Exodus 1:8-22). Moses was born, and he arose to be God’s chosen leader, along with his brother Aaron. (Exodus 2:2, 10; 3:7ff). Eventually, Moses and Aaron led Israel out of Egypt. (Exodus 12:50; 13:18). However, it was not long until Israel began to murmur and complain, accusing Moses of bringing them into the wilderness to die. (Exodus 14:10, 11). After all they had seen God do for them (Eg. Exodus 14:16, 22), they murmured frequently. (Exodus 15ff).
After Israel was safely across the Red Sea and free from Egypt, they left Mount Hor, and became discouraged again (Numbers 21:4), complaining about their food and drink, and they spoke against God and Moses, saying, “There is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.” (Verse 5). My, how people so soon forget things. Did they not remember all that God had done for them, saving them in Egypt, then from Egypt to the present? Had they blocked the manna, water, shoes, clothes, and feet out of their minds? (Cf. Deuteronomy 8:4; 29:5; Nehemiah 9:4). They were alive, well, and free from Egypt! “And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.” (Verse 6). They confessed their sins, and asked Moses to pray to God for them, which he did. (Verse 7). God then instructed Moses, “Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.” (Verse 8). “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.” (Verse 9). WHEN the people did as God commanded, looking upon the serpent, they lived, but not until then. Believers in the tent were not cured until they did what God said. They had to be led by faith to do God’s will. WHEN they looked upon the serpent and were cured, they knew it was by the grace of God. They neither thought their obedience had cured them, nor were they cured by the serpent, or even Moses. The believers knew God was their healer WHEN they complied with His will.
Fast forward to John 3:14-17. Jesus told Nicodemas, “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”, defining that birth as being “born of water
and of the Spirit.” (Verses 1-5). Nicodemas questioned Jesus about things He said (Verse 9), and Jesus spoke of heavenly things (Verse 12), telling him, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” (Verse 17). Jesus was telling Nicodemas that He would be nailed to the cruel cross on Calvary, on Golgotha’s brow. This would be similar to what Moses, a type of Christ, did in the wilderness. However, rather than giving man physical life, Jesus would offer eternal life. (Verses 16, 17). This life would be GIVEN to obedient believers, and each one would understand that whatever one did at God’s command, salvation would still be unmerited, by the grace of God. (Ephesians 2:8-10). Jesus would have to “be lifted up from the earth” to draw sinners to Him. (John 12:32). He had told His apostles of this impending death at the passover supper, saying, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:28). Shortly thereafter, “the Son of man was betrayed into the hand of sinners” by Judas Iscariot. (Matthew 26:45-50). He was unjustly tried and convicted with lies, and led away to be crucified. (Matthew 26:35-27:35). This greatest expression of love by Jesus in dying for the ungodly (John 15:13; Romans 5:7), and His Father, God, giving Him to die for us (John 3:16), demands our reciprocal love for His sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:19; John 14:15; 15:14).
Jesus was lifted up, and His precious blood shed for all lost people. (John 19:16-19, 30, 34; 1 Peter 1:19). One may now be “justified by his blood.” (Romans 5:9). This is done when one hears the word of God, so that one may believe in God and Jesus (John 8:24; Hebrews 11:6; Romans 10:17), repent of sins (Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 17:30, 31), confess one’s faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God (Acts 8:35-39; Matthew 10:32, 33), and be “buried” or “planted” with Him in baptism (Romans 6:1-5; Colossians 2:12) “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), to “wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16), to enter the body, church (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:22, 23), which is the body or church of Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:27; Romans 16:16). As the people of Moses’ day believed and did what God required to live, so must we believe and do what God requires of us to be saved. Jesus is “the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” (Hebrews 5:8, 9). Have you done what God says, as God has commanded? If not, let this be the day and time you put on Christ (Galatians 3:26, 27), be saved, become a Christian. Those who obeyed Jesus in the time He lived and shortly thereafter did so immediately. (Acts 2:37- 41; 8:35-39; 16:33). Other writers encouraged all to do so “now” (2 Corinthians 6:2), “today.” (Hebrews 3:7, 13, 15; 4:7).
If you are a member of the church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but have “left thy first love, Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent and do
the first works,….”(Revelation 2:4, 5). See also, Acts 8:22-24; James 5:16.
A Serpent on a Pole, and The Son of Man on a Cross were linked by the God of heaven. The story of Numbers 21 was a shadow of the thing to come. Both teach the same lesson, that is, all have sinned, and sin is ever close. However, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9). He provided for Israel’s healing, but He did not play with them; He did not do what He said UNTIL they did what He required. They had to BELIEVE and OBEY. So it is with us today. (Hebrews 5:8, 9). Some were religious, but not righteous, and God denied knowing them. (Matthew 6:1-11; 7:21-23; 15:7-9). We must do God’s bidding His way.
The writer hopes to live eternally with YOU, even if we have not met here, nor shall. That will happen only if each one hears, believes, and obeys God. Will you join this penman in making a commitment to follow God? Call the one who gave you this tract for any assistance you need to obey God, or write to the one whose address appears thereon. Time is of the essence; do not delay.