Speaker: Mike Connell
In Numbers 21, the children of Israel became bitter in their heart and started complaining against Moses. Their sin released fiery serpents which bit the people and released poison into their system. Their was only one remedy for the bite of the serpent - fixing their eyes, with faith in their heart, on God's provision.The same power is available to you today -the power of the cross for curses.
I want to read from the gospel of John. So the Bible reveals to us God’s plan to help us. It’s made up of two books – the Old Testament and the New Testament, who would set all people free. Now, we’ll read in verse 14 of John chapter 3, these wonderful verses. It starts with a picture and we’re going to look at the picture in a moment.
It says: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” So Jesus is speaking about a situation that happened hundreds of years before, with Moses in the wilderness with the people of Israel. He says it’s like a prophetic picture of his death on the cross.
So He says: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man – that’s Jesus, be lifted up so whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
You notice the heart of God. God doesn’t want you to perish, He wants you to be saved. The Bible’s very clear – the nature of God is love. God is a loving God. People have many different pictures of God. The picture you have of Him, what you believe about Him, will affect how you relate to Him. So, if you have distorted or wrong pictures of God, you won’t relate to Him properly.
The Bible says God loved the world. He loved the world this much, that He sent His son from heaven to come into the world to reveal what the kingdom of heaven is like, and to invite us to become part of that; to invite us back into relationship with God.
Jesus demonstrated God’s love in a number of ways. One, in His teaching. Two, in how He related to people. Three, in the miracles, the way He helped people overcome problems. But number four, most of all, by dying on the cross and then rising again from the dead. The fundamental problem that people have, is we are separated in our heart from God.
The Bible says – the consequences of that separation is death. So, Jesus came into this world to break the power of sin and to put His spirit or life into us again. We were designed to live in relationship with God. But separated from God, we just live out of our natural senses. God wants to change your life. Change your heart. Put His spirit inside you so you can live a different kind of life. God has no desire to judge you. He desires to set you free.
So whatever problem you have in your life, whatever bondage you have in your life, God does not blame you, does not condemn you. His desire is to help you. Jesus said – “I didn’t come to condemn people. I didn’t come to point out what is wrong. I came to save people.”
I want to show you a story in the Old Testament. The Old Testament contains many stories of people and their encounters with God. Sometimes we don’t understand spiritual matters easily. Sometimes we don’t understand things that are spiritual. So God gives many examples, many pictures in the Old Testament to help us understand spiritual things. So we’re going to look at a picture. We’re going to look at a story. We’re going to look at a real event. We’re going to show God’s love touching people. What God did to help them and what was required of people.
So, we look in Numbers chapter 21. We start in verse 4 and read through to verse 9.
“Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” 6 So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.
7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.”
Now God’s intention always, is great blessing. The people of Israel had been bondaged for 400 years. They served as slaves and the task masters were very hard on them. As a result of their difficult life, the people became very bitter and very weak. God sent Moses to deliver them. He heard their voice cry and He sent Moses to deliver them. God demonstrated His power in a great way and the people of God left Egypt and began a journey to receive an inheritance in Canaan. They had a season or a journey with some challenges.
This is very like us. Before we come to know Jesus Christ, we live in bondage to sin. We are a slave to sin. We just can’t help sinning. We also live under the influence of evil spirits. They afflict people with fears and torments and sickness. They torment people with addictions. They break people’s hearts. They cause all manner of problems to people.
When we come to receive Jesus Christ, God puts His spirit in our heart and He breaks the power. Breaks the power of sin. Breaks the power of the devil. But then, we have to choose how we will live our life.
In this story we just read, the people of God have had a major victory. God has helped them against their enemies. Every day God provides for them. Every day God protects them. In fact, every day they are living under the blessing of God.
But it said – the people complained. They complained because they were bitter in their heart. Whatever is in your heart will flow out into your life. What happened when the people came under pressure, is they began to complain bitterly. When bitterness gets in your heart, it will always come out under pressure. Complaining, criticising, negative speaking. The people complained against Moses. Moses has only tried to help them. They complained against God. They began to say – well, we’d be better off back there in bondage and we hate what God is providing.
So the people’s hearts were corrupt. The people did not see that God is a loving God. They could not see that God was with them. Their eyes were blinded to the goodness of God because of the bitterness and anger and unforgiveness in their heart. They had been deeply abused and hurt in Egypt.
God was showing them how to depend on Him. God was wanting to change them from being slaves into sons. God was wanting to change them from being victims into conquerors. But when the people bitterly complained, complaining releases demonic spirits. When they complained, serpents came and bit them.
Here’s the thing to understand – the serpents were always there in the wilderness. It’s just they had been protected by God from them. In the Bible, serpents are a picture of evil spirits. Jesus said – “I give you authority over serpents and scorpions and all the power of the earth.” Jesus wants us to have authority over evil spirits.
But when the people complained, when they rebelled, when their heart turned from God, and they began to do things that were wrong, the serpents were no longer restrained. The serpents now began to come into the camp. Suddenly they’d bite people. A person would go to lie down, suddenly a searing pain and he’s bit by a serpent. They go to pick up sticks, suddenly a hand is bitten by a serpent. Many many people, the Bible says, were bitten by serpents, and they died.
When you get bitten by a snake, there are two kinds of venom that they inject. They are different in the way they work. One kind of venom paralyses the system – all the nerves and muscles go into spasm and the person eventually goes into shock and dies. It’s a painful way to die. The other kind of venom begins to eat away the flesh. The body becomes toxic. The person goes into shock and dies. So the serpents bite was always fatal.
In the New Testament, Jesus encountered many people and they had demonic spirits living in their lives because they had broken the laws of God – idolatry and spiritism and sexual sin. Alcoholism, drugs. Demonic spirits were tormenting their lives. Jesus came to set them free.
So, the people had been bitten by the serpents. Then they began to figure it out –“We were doing fine, no serpents. Then we complained against God and Moses. Now we’re all getting bitten. We’ve obviously sinned.” So in this picture in this story here, you see the connection between sin, serpents, and death.
Whenever we sin, we give the devil access to our life, and the consequence of that sin is death. In the long term –physical death. In the short term – isolation, disconnection, problems in our lives. When people are wrestling with anger, it’s like a poison in their heart. When people are wrestling with lust, it’s like a poison in their heart. When people are wrestling with hatred, it’s like a poison inside them. They realise there was no remedy. Can you imagine how frightening it would be to live with serpents surround you, biting you, and there’s no remedy? Can you imagine how scary it would be to know that there are serpents waiting there to bite you and that there’s no remedy whatsoever.
The Bible is very clear – there is only one remedy for sin. There is only one remedy for demonic spirits. But most people don’t realise this. So what happened, is when the people connected, they had sin, and this is why they had a problem. They began to cry out. They said – “Moses help us. Moses, pray God will take the serpents away.” God heard Moses’ prayer.
I think Moses was very gracious. They’re complaining bitterly against him every day – then they come and say “Hey, the serpents are biting us. We’re so sorry. We’re so sorry we complained against you master. The serpent bites.” Moses could’ve said – “Well you got what you deserved.” But he prayed, he interceded. He had God’s heart for people.
God gave him an interesting instruction. He said – “Make a brass serpent, and put it up on a pole very high. Every time anyone’s bitten, this is what you’re going to do. You’ll have to, from wherever you are, you need to know you’re going to die unless you do one thing. You’re going to die. The poison is already working and there’s only one remedy – that’s to locate that brass serpent.
Can you imagine now, the panic someone had when they were bitten? “Ah! Maybe it will go away.” It’s not going to go away. There’s only one thing they can do. They had to find where the brass serpent was and look at it. Now, I want you to understand, it wasn’t kind of – “Oh yeah, there it is.” When the person is bitten, there’s only a short time before he dies. “Ahh! Where’s that serpent. Ah! There it is.” They’d be looking hard! They’d be giving it a good hard look. The Bible says – if you look on it, fix your attention on it with faith in your heart, the power of God will be released to you.
Now, it would’ve taken them no doubt, sometime of standing with their eyes fixed on the serpent, and then the power of God will be released. Now, can you imagine this – if you had been bitten by a serpent, and you’re starting to feel the pain. Now, what would you have done? If you don’t do something, you’re going to die.
There’s only one thing you can do – that’s to locate that serpent on that brass serpent. You would’ve fixed your gaze on that serpent. You would’ve fixed it in your gaze – “Don’t get in my way. Don’t get in my way! Don’t block my view!” I think it was probably up fairly high, so wherever you were, you could see it; and they would stand there looking. Just check and hold my hand up and see if it’s fixed. They would stand looking until they feel all the poison is gone. They feel the pain and the tingling go. “Thank You God. Your power has been released.”
Now, you understand this, the brass serpent had no power. It was just a focal point for their faith. Here’s what God wanted them to understand – that sin came into the world because of the serpent, and one day Jesus would come and He would be put up on a cross. You have to remember – this is hundreds of years before they ever invented crucifixion. The serpent was up on a pole.
God knew ahead of time that one day Jesus would come into this earth, and He would die a death on a cross which no one had ever heard of before, and when He died on the cross, the power of sin would be broken. The power of the serpent would be broken. The power of curses would be broken.
Colossians 2:14-15 – “When Jesus died on that cross, took the list of sins against us, cancelled it all, and disarmed the devil, broke the serpent’s power.” So God wanted them to understand that just as Moses lifted up the brass serpent, one day Jesus would go on a cross; and that every person who understood that sin was causing death in their life, if they looked to Jesus Christ with faith in their heart, the power of God would be released and they would be saved.
God so loved the world, He gave His only Son to die on the cross, that if we would believe in Him, that He died for my sins and rose again and conquered the power of sin, then the power of God would be released. Hallelujah. Come on, let’s give the Lord a clap, shall we? Thank You Lord. Thank You Jesus.
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