Israel hated detours and delays. They began to talk against God and Moses – “The bread is hard. The water is scarce. Our life is miserable. Why did we ever follow you? Why did you lead us here to die?” This was no humble cry for help, but another act of rebellion – a refusal to listen, follow, and trust the Lord. When life applies pressure it pushes out what’s inside our hearts.
As they shook their fists and railed against God, the ground in the distance began to slither. The sound of hissing grew louder. Straining to focus, they couldn’t believe their eyes. A swarm of venomous snakes advanced, crawling over one another like moving spaghetti.
In 2006, Samuel L. Jackson starred in the movie, Snakes on a Plane. While in flight, hundreds of poisonous snakes are released in an effort to kill one key witness in a murder trial. For the Israelites, there was no where to run. Snakes were in hats, coat sleeves, pant pockets, socks, and shoes. As they went to bed they were in the sheets and under pillows. Their minds flashed back to Egypt when the land was devoured by swarms of vermin. The Lord of Creation was bringing this same judgment upon them. Pierced and injected with poisonous venom there was no way to save themselves.
In this darkest hour they turned to God and confessed their sin. Numbers 21:7 says, “The people came to Moses and said, ‘We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people.”
God heard their cry for mercy. He instructed Moses to make a bronze snake around one end of a pole. With the pole, the replica could be raised as high as possible. Just one look of faith at the snake and anyone would be healed. Numbers 21:9 tells us the outcome, “So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.”
This was a universal offer for anyone. Everybody who looked lived. Still, some crawled into the dark corners of rocky ledges and tried to sip water and sweat it out. There in the shadows, they met death.