Read: John 3:1-21 & Numbers 21:4-9
Forty years of listening to complaints and criticism would be enough to drive anyone to a fit of anger. Moses must have been worn out by the Israelites’ constant grumbling. In Numbers 21 we find that even God had tired of it. The Scripture reports that God sent venomous snakes among the Israelites. This must have been a terrifying experience. For many it was deadly. The Israelites begged Moses to pray for them.
Before we go on, I want to confess that I don't think I would have prayed on their behalf – at least not right away. After all of the griping and backstabbing, I would have let the Israelites suffer a little longer. I would have at least waited until my biggest critics were swollen up and in some serious pain before I asked God to remove those snakes. Moses didn't do that. He immediately prayed, asking God to rescue his people. And God did. He instructed Moses to "make a snake and put it on a pole." Moses then held the pole up before the people allowing anyone who had been bitten to look upon the snake and be healed.
This is an odd story. Why wouldn’t God just remove the snakes and heal the people? I believe it was because God was offering a glimpse of something that was still to come. There would be another servant who would be sent to lead His people out of slavery. This servant would also suffer the rejection of those He came to save. This servant would Himself be nailed to a pole and lifted up for a dying world to see. And like Moses’ snake in the desert, anyone who looked upon the Cross of Christ would be healed.
Jesus explained this to Nicodemus when He came to question Him. John was there and captured the exchange for us in chapter three of his Gospel. I do not believe that either Nicodemus or John understood the comparison that night. Both men were later present at Jesus’ crucifixion. As they stood at the foot of the cross looking up at Jesus, His words from this night must have come flooding back to their minds.
Jesus, high and lifted up,
Thank You for interceding on my behalf even though I deserved the wrath of God.
I am powerless to save myself, but I look to Your cross as the source of my healing. Thank You for being willing to intercede on my behalf.
Thank You for dying a death that was rightfully mine to die.