DayBreaks for 07/12/19: The Miracle on a Stick
From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:
They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 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. 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.” 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, he lived. – Numbers 21:4-9 (NIV)
I was recently reading Athol Dickson’s The Gospel According to Moses when I discovered new insights into the passage from Numbers 21, above. Let me share them with you:
FIRST: Remember Israel’s recent history. They’d been freed from Egypt, only to find themselves apparently left alone as Moses had been up on the mountain for so long the people felt that he was most certainly dead. Of course, he wasn’t, but they had no way of knowing that. And so they asked Aaron to make a golden calf so that they could worship it and perhaps receive some help and direction from the “god”. While this might seem very strange for us, remember that they’d been in Egyptian slavery for 400 years and had become intimately acquainted with the religious worship of Egyptian gods, which included various bulls, frogs, falcons and other animals. So they clearly thought this golden god could help them. The result of that episode was that thousands of Israelites died because they’d formed and worshipped a golden calf. Now, however, they are in trouble again…whining and angering Moses and God. So, God sent snakes among them and many died and were dying. God tells Moses, incredulously, to make an image of bronze and put it up where everyone could see it and that if they look at it they will live! Do you see the irony? The last time they’d formed an image to worship it, many died as a result. Now, God says to make an image and it will result in their being saved! This must have been a real test of obedience for the Israelites: “Hey, Shlomoe, remember what happened the LAST time we made an image of an animal? Do you think Moses heard God correctly about this bronze serpent thing?” It required obedience even when the thing commanded not only made no sense, but when there was precedent point 180 degrees the opposite direction!
SECOND: Athol Dickson did a word study on the verses about the bronze serpent, and he made an amazing discovery. The Hebrew word, nes, which is translated as the “pole” upon which the bronze serpent is mounted, is not a simple word to translate. In other passages, the word is translated as “example” or “banner.” In Isaiah 33:23, it is translated “sail”, but another word entirely is used to describe the mast or pole on which the sail is hung. In fact, nowhere else in Scripture is the word nes translated as “pole” – it is always translated as the object that is lifted up on the pole. Only here, is the bronze serpent mounted on the “pole” (nes). So, to use the way the word is normally translated, we’d find a symbol (the bronze serpent) hung upon an example (the nes, or pole). It seems God deliberately chose this word to hint that it really wasn’t the serpent that was to give them deliverance, but the One behind the serpent. But, that’s not the most amazing thing. The most amazing thing is that the word nes has yet another meaning: “miracle.” The story of the bronze serpent is both an example and a miracle, pointing to the real miracle: the miracle of a God dying on another pole in Roman occupied Jerusalem. It is as if God is saying, “When the people look upon what hangs on the pole – the miracle – they will be saved.” Jesus was that miracle. It was a miracle that a God could die at all. It was a miracle that our sins could be taken away. It was a miracle that God would do such a thing for nothing more than a collection of atoms and chemicals known as a human being. Yet He did all those things.
When you look upon the miracle on the pole, you shall be saved!
PRAYER: Open our eyes to the miracle that is Jesus hanging on a pole for us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple. ><}}}”>