Saturday, February 27, 2021

Snakebit

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Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.

—Isaiah 45:22

In John 3, Jesus lays out the “ABCs” of the gospel to Nicodemus:


 

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“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (verses 14–15). Jesus is sending Nicodemus back to familiar territory: the Torah, Numbers 21.

The Israelites were complaining that God had abandoned them. They accused Moses and God of failing them, and bringing them to die in the wilderness. They were sick of what God had given them. So the Lord sent venomous snakes to bite them.

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I once aspired to be a herpetologist (someone who studies reptiles), so I wondered, “What kind of snake was this?” I have been bitten by many snakes—king snakes, gopher snakes, red racers, pythons, boas—but never a poisonous snake.

These snakes in Numbers 21 could have been cobras. They are native to that region, and the bite of a cobra is deadly for sure. But there is another possibility. It also could have been a saw-scale viper, which is indigenous to that region. Saw-scale vipers are on the “Top 10” list of the most deadly snakes. They are only two feet long but have a huge striking range and are very aggressive. They put so much effort into a strike, they actually leave the ground. Once bitten, you only have hours to live.

The Israelites knew they were in trouble and called out to Moses. Moses was instructed by God to erect a pole with a bronze serpent on it. Whoever then looked at that serpent on a pole was healed of their venomous bite. God did everything He could do. It was up to the Israelites to look at that pole. They could have known of the pole’s existence yet never have looked.

In the same way, Satan has bitten us and the bite is potentially fatal if not treated. There is very little time. God provided the antidote through the atonement of Jesus on the cross. On the day Jesus hung on the cross, we read that some looked and believed. Others looked and turned away.

You can “look and live” or you can “look and leave.” In Isaiah 45:21–22, God says, “There is no God apart from me . . . Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other” (NIV).

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