“Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread” (Numbers 21:4-5, NKJV)
The children of Israel, under the leadership of Moses, were delivered from the bondages of Egypt and were on their way to the Promised Land. On their way, they had to face many challenges. Their trust in the God of Israel and obedience to His instructions were tested. They had to travel over unfriendly terrains. They were lead by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire during the night. God miraculously provided for them. None of them died due to lack of water or food! Unfortunately as we examine their journey though the wilderness, we see a pattern of unbelief, disobedience and rebellion as things happen against their expectations or as they are met with difficulties or inconveniences.
Now some may ask why we should bother with these stories of the Old Testament which may not be applicable to us who live in the 21st century. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed though the sea . . . Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”
In a particular instance, the children of Israel had a great victory against the Canaanite king of Arad, the first Canaanite king whom they defeated. After the victory, since the Edomites did not allow the Israelites to go though their land, they had to take the long route around Edom and defeat the Moabite kings before they could enter into the Promised Land. But the people grew inpatient on the way since it was a long, drawn-out journey. They spoke against God and spoke against Moses; they were rebellious. They questioned God’s plan with disbelief in His ability to provide and protect: “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to die in the desert?” They had contempt towards the familiar things of God: “We detest this miserable food.” The Loving God showed His mercy and compassion towards them over and over. The children of Israel, however, conveniently forgot all these mercies. They made it sound like they were better off in Egypt (where they were enslaved)! What a tragedy!
Numbers 21:6 – God sent fiery, venomous snakes among them. They bit the people and many Israelites died!
Poisonous snakes are very common in temperate climates of the wilderness. So when the Bible says God sent the poisonous snakes, I believe that it meant God’s hand of protection over them was removed and they were exposed to the venomous attacks of these fiery snakes. These snakes were most likely vipers. Their sting burns like a fire and they have a fiery color. The viper venom is a strong neurotoxin and can paralyze the body in minutes! This reminds us of the sting of sin. When we harbor sin, it can paralyze our faculties and culminate in premature death. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). This eventuality is unavoidable. Only the blood of Jesus can redeem us from this eventuality.
It is true that the children of God received a great deliverance from the bondages of Egypt. It is also true that they received another victory over the Canaanite king, who was trying to intimidate them. Despite these victories, the journey seemed too long and there were many inconveniences on the way. They won the battle but were unable to live in victory because of their rebellious nature, impatience, unbelief and contempt. They lived in defeat and death as a consequence of their own choosing. If we have won the battle, that is all the more reason for us to live in victory.
So what is the solution? The solution is LOOK!
John 3:14-15 (NKJV) “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man must be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
The children of God are defeated in their journeys to their promises because of the similar sins that the children of Israel struggled with. We live in defeat and despair. Many have lost spiritual vitality and lay paralyzed, gasping for air. Some may still be sitting in the church pews, but there is no spiritual vigor! The good news is that there is an opportunity to regain vitality. It is the divine prescription for all ages. Moses raised the bronze serpent on the pole and whosoever looked at the serpent on the pole got healed and revived. Those who were bitten but did not get the opportunity to look at the bronze serpent had to face the eventuality of death.
This is not a casual look, but a look of obedience (obedience to what the Lord has commanded- loving the Lord with all our heart, mind and soul and loving our neighbors). It is a look of desperation (willingness to do whatever it takes, taking our eyes away from everything else) and a look of faith (conviction and assurance that He is well able to lead us victoriously).
Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, in obedience, in desperation and in faith is the sure way to be victorious and to live in victory. At the cross of Calvary, Jesus has already won the battle. As we live in this world, the things of the world will try to weigh us down and suck out the spiritual sap in all of us. It is up to us to make that choice of living in victory. The viper venom of sin is not our friend, but thank God for the cross. Jesus became a sin on our behalf. We can see the ravages of sin on that cross. Jesus won the battle. We don’t have to live in defeat any longer! It is time for us to take our eyes away from everything else and to fix them on Jesus and Jesus alone!
May the Lord help each and every one of us to live in victory.
Pastor Dr. AK George
Ozark Christian Tabernacle