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Friday, April 25, 2008

A Serpent's Bite or Bread of LIfe?

Num 21:4-6
4 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.
(NKJ)

I am using the NKJ version of the Bible to reflect that it is the souls of the people that loathe the manna. The impatient (discouraged) people of Israel called the food God sent from Heaven, "miserable food." This miserable food they called it--the KJV translates it as "this light bread" and the NASB translates it as "miserable food". The meaning is the bread from heaven was lightly esteemed, contemptible, worthless, little valued and unsatisfactory. In other words, Israel didn't see the bread from Heaven as providing all they needed or wanted. They didn't see the bread from Heaven as giving them the life they thought God was supposed to give them. It did not satisfy them. It wasn't enough. They saw it as the bread that was unsatisfactory or worthless.

When studying this, I am mindful that during the 40 years Israel ate this "miserable food" their feet did not swell and there was none feeble (sick) among them (Ps 105:37). The word feeble here signifies weakness, or failing (falling) because of weakness--lack of strength. We know it doesn't mean failing here because Israel failed over and again, so it signifies a physical weakness or lack of strength.

This "miserable food" kept them free from sickness and disease. It was food that descended daily from Heaven and is a type of Christ (John 6:48-50). Jesus said, "I am the bread of life … This is the bread which comes from Heaven that you may eat of it and not die."

It is recorded in this passage of numbers that because the people loathed the gift of God--the form of provision--serpents began to attack them and many died. They loathed--or lightly esteemed--the bread sent to keep them healthy and their healthy bodies died in the wilderness (place of unbelief and trial) because of the serpent's venom. Now, I want to note, that the serpents were not foreign to the wilderness, they were a normal part of it. Serpents are native to the wilderness and dessert. However, prior to the souls of Israel loathing the bread from heaven--they either were not bitten or if they were it did not affect their health. This is important for us to understand and believe for us to receive all Jesus came to do for us.

The cure for the serpent's bite was for Moses to lift a bronze serpent on a pole and for the people to look on it. The bronze of the serpent represents judgment. The serpent itself represents something cursed, and the pole signifies the cross of Christ. Viewing the cursed on the pole would give (or give back) life. Do we view Jesus as being the cursed for us? Do we view Him as taking all that brought the curse of sickness, disease, poverty, or any other curse? Do we view Him as He viewed Himself—as the Bread which came down from Heaven? Can we see ourselves as He paid for us to be—whole, healthy and delivered from all sin brought into the world?

Jesus said, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him shall have eternal life. (John 3:14-15). Do we see ourselves as having the kind of life Jesus has? Or do we merely exist, hoping for a better day in the sweet by and by? Israel did not have shoes that did not wear out in heaven—they had them while here on the earth. They didn't have "none feeble among them" in the sweet by and by but in the here and now on the earth—in the wilderness, no less.

Why did Jesus typify Himself with a serpent on a pole? The pole represents the tree--the cross beam--that all who hang on a tree were accursed (Genesis 21:22-23). The serpent represents one who is cursed. Jesus hung on the cross absorbing all our sins and all the curses that came upon mankind because of sin. Jesus bore all our curses so we could be as He is (1Jn 4:17). Jesus became a picture of a cursed creature so we could become the picture of a child (beloved) of God.

All we believe about ourselves (inner man—mind, will, intellect, heart) that is representative of the cursed, Jesus took on the cross. Because of His work on the cross we can see ourselves differently. Remember, it was the "soul of the people" that loathed the manna. It was the soul (inner person-mind, will, intellect, heart) of the people who longed for something else--more specifically what they'd had while in bondage. It was the soul of the people that led them to speak evil against Moses and God. They saw themselves (inner man--mind, will, intellect, heart) as deprived--lacking. They saw not the health and vitality God had provided for them but they saw lack of substance (meat). And that inner view gave entrance for the serpents to attack them. The serpents were already in the wilderness, just as Satan is already here in the earth we dwell in, but the serpents had no power over them until they allowed their souls to become impatient/discouraged and then their mouths followed their souls--speaking what was abundant in their heart (inner man). See Matthew 12:34 and Matthew 15:18. I see a definite connection with what is in our hearts coming out of our mouth—and even more—what comes out of our mouth influencing the life we live in the earth.

The depiction of a bronze serpent was significant because it was an "image" or "likeness" of the cursed. Jesus became the image or likeness of the cursed to pay the way for us to become the image or likeness of God's dear Son! Bronze represents judgment. Jesus took the judgment of guilt we had coming to us so we are free from judgment. All of the wrath of God toward sinful mankind was poured out on Jesus (Isaiah 53:10). Will we allow our souls to be renewed to believe that? Or will we, as Israel did, grow impatient and discouraged and want what substance the world understands? The glory of having a will is we can choose this day (and every day) blessing or cursing—life or death. I choose life. I choose the life Jesus died for me to have. What will you choose?