A very prominent narrative Bible Lesson in our CEF curriculum and one that is highlighted as an example to study and work on in our Teaching Children Effectively™ Level 1 Course is found in Numbers 21: 4-9 (stop and read it). It’s a passage that we have had to become very familiar with over the years and still to this day it’s easy to consider it “strange”. This passage always seems to cause some initial shock and confusion for those unfamiliar with it. Here’s the summary…
The people of Israel had entered the Promised Land. God mercifully delivered them from their enemies and gave them victory in battle. Instead of showing gratitude for His blessings, the people gave in to impatience. They persisted in their complaints, and God sent severe punishment in the form of venomous snakes. Even so, God showed His mercy in giving them a way to be healed. A snake was placed on a pole and erected in the camp with a simple command given, “…look at it and live.”
Wait...what? Doesn’t God tell these same people earlier through Moses in the Ten Commandments, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” (Exodus 20:4). He certainly does, but now He’s telling them to make a carved image of a venomous snake out of bronze. Does it make sense that God would contradict Himself? No. But, it doesn’t have to. God can do whatever He wants whenever He wants and it doesn’t have to make sense to us. The only thing we have to concern ourselves with is complete obedience to whatever God says. If the people were repentant of their sins they would obey God’s command. The same goes for us.
The venom that inflicted the children of Israel is an excellent picture of sin’s destructive effect on our lives. And, just as with Israel, we have the same opportunity to “look and live.” The serpent on the pole was symbolic of the cross. In the New Testament Jesus referenced this story to help people understand what He was sent to do and what it would mean (John 3:14). Christ died on a cross for the sins of all mankind. However, unlike the temporary healing Israel experienced, Christ’s selfless act gives eternal life to all who receive Him. Have you “looked” to the cross of Jesus? God’s life-changing gift is waiting there, if only you choose to embrace it.
True repentance leads to true obedience.