“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live” (Numbers 21:8,9).
THERE IS NO WAY TO KNOW WHY GOD CHOSE THIS WAY OF SAVING THOSE WHO HAD BEEN SNAKEBITTEN. As the people of Israel drew near to the Promised Land, they grew distrustful and spoke against God and Moses. “Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died” (Numbers 21:6). But when they cried out in grief, Moses prayed for them, and God said to him, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live” (v.8). So Moses did as he was instructed, and sure enough, “if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live” (v.9). As we meditate on what’s involved in obeying the gospel, several things about this incident merit our attention.
One is that, as we have said, we don’t know why God decided to save the people in this way. Presumably, He could have done it in other ways, some of which might have made more sense to us. But if we are looking for some self-explanatory link between looking at a bronze image on a pole and being cured of snakebite, we will look in vain. Any linkage that our logical minds might decipher would be nothing more than a guess.
But the second thing is, we don’t have to understand God’s rationale. It was His grace that chose to provide any cure at all — and if He required them to look upon the bronze serpent before His grace granted the cure, He certainly had the right to do so.
Today, it is common to hear individuals question why God would connect baptism (immersion in water) with the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16). But we do not know the reason why God linked that action to that result — nor, for that matter, do we know why He decided to require faith (John 8:24), repentance (Acts 17:30,31), and the confession of our faith (Romans 10:9,10). But the fact remains, those are the requirements that He has decided on.
One last thing is obvious, however: God’s reasons are always good. And He has never devised a plan that did not have amazing results.
“What God does, he does well” (Jean de La Fontaine).