Healing from a Pole

And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

(Numbers 21:8-9)

For most, serpents hardly seem to be the appropriate symbol for healing. In fact, for many it may seem to have a totally opposite affect. For some it causes great anxiety and even panic. However, to this day a serpent wrapped around a pole is a symbol of the medical profession. What connection exists between the cult, mythology and the biblical story of our passage today is not clear. As we will find, Jesus took the story seriously and so should we.

Our story picks up with the Israelites once again being disappointed and frustrated, so they reverted back to blaming Moses. It is also important to remember Moses himself had just found out he would not be allowed to enter the Promise Land. The people had complained about everything including the food from heaven God had been supplying them. Because of their disobedience and complaining, the Lord sent serpents in their midst and when bitten, they died.

The people recognized their sinfulness against God had contributed to their predicament, and they repented to Moses asking him to pray for them, which he did. As Moses appealed to the Lord, the Lord gave him instruction to make a replica of the snakes and attach it to the top of a pole. The Lord promised if those who were bitten would look at the pole, they would be healed and not die. Those who followed the commands of the Lord and looked to the pole once bitten were healed.

Apparently Moses’ snake on a pole was preserved for future generations. We find in 

II Kings 18:4, during the time of Hezekiah, it actually became an object of idolatrous worship. The people had once again succumbed to substitute an aid to worship in place of the one to be worshipped. The people began to revere a bronze snake on a wooden pole instead of trusting God.

Centuries later, Jesus told Nicodemus, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). 

Jesus was reminding those who heard, it is God who heals both body and soul through faith in accordance to His plan. Just as the people of Israel were commanded to have faith in the serpent on the pole to heal their physical sickness, people today are commanded to have faith in Jesus who hung on a pole to be healed spiritually.




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