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With New Testament Eyes: 20 - The Brazen Serpent

By Henry Mahan


      Numbers 21:4-9 John 3:14-18

      There is no better type nor picture of Christ, our Redeemer, and the way that sinners are saved to be found in the Old Testament than the one before us; for our Lord, himself, chose this Old Testament picture to illustrate the gospel to Nicodemus, the religious Pharisee (John 3:14-18). Would you learn the way of mercy and life? Then follow this story prayerfully and carefully.

      1. The people rebelled against God. (vv. 4-5)

      They were discouraged because of the way! It was away from Canaan instead of toward Canaan, but it was the way they had chosen at Kadesh-Barnea. They could and should have entered the land of milk and honey, but their unbelief turned them away from God (Heb. 3:19).

      Our wanderings in the wilderness are of our own choosing.

      In our father, Adam, we chose not to believe God (Rom. 5:12).

      We wanted to be our own god and to have our own way, and the consequence was death for the whole race.

      The people spoke against God. Paul, in 1 Cor. 10:9, said they spoke against Christ. They murmured against Moses, God's prophet and leader. Nothing that the Lord or Moses, his servant, had done pleased them. They spoke against the way of God and the word of God.

      Our generation is no different. Instead of recognizing that our condition and troubles in the spirit and the flesh are of our own making and justifying God in his judgments, we murmur against the Lord, his way, his word, and his servants. The lust for our own way (Isa. 53:6; Isa. 55:8) got us in the mess we are in, yet we still reject God's way and desire our own.

      The people found fault with the bread from heaven (manna) and the water from the rock. 'Our soul loatheth this light bread.' What a horrible, condemning statement, especially in the light of the fact that 'that rock was Christ' and the manna a picture of Christ, God's gift of life.

      How many in the world or religion today are content with Christ, the bread of life and the water of life? (John 5:40; John 6:51-52; John 6:55-60.) Like Israel of old and the Jews of apostolic days, we will not have this man reign over us nor rejoice in his way of life.

      2. The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people. (vv. 6-7)

      Because of their sin of murmuring and rebellion, God judged the people, sent deadly poisonous serpents among them, and the people bitten by the serpents died.

      Our sin has separated us and our God. The serpent of sin has left its poison in every son of Adam; and death, the wages of sin, is upon us (Rom. 5: 17-19). 'In Adam all die.' There was no human cure for the fiery serpents' bite, as there is no human cure for the guilt and condemnation of sin.

      Spiritual death is in us, physical death is upon us, and eternal death awaits us. 'Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.' The people entreated Moses to intercede for them with God.

      Only the great mercy of God could deliver them. Grace is God giving us what we do not deserve, and mercy is God not giving us what we do deserve.

      3. God provided the remedy--a picture of Christ, our redeemer. (vv. 8-9)

      A serpent was made in the likeness of the fiery serpents. So Christ, our Lord, was made in the likeness of flesh (Rom. 8:3; Phil. 2:7). He was made of a woman, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh (Luke 24:39). He was numbered with the transgressors (Isa. 53:12).

      The serpent of brass had no venom, as Christ had no sin.

      He was tempted as we are, yet without sin.

      The serpent of brass was lifted up on a pole. So Christ was lifted upon a cross (John 3:14-15). Bearing our sins, he was nailed to a cross (Isa. 53:4-6; 1 Peter 3:18).

      There was but one remedy--the serpent on the pole. There is but one Saviour, one Redeemer, one deliverer--the Lord Jesus Christ, our substitute (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; John 3:35- 36).

      All that the people were required to do was look. God provided the remedy, fully and completely, and commanded them to look. Our command is the same, 'Look and live' (1 John 5:11-13; Rom. 3:28). The remedy was sufficient and effectual for dying sinners. No matter how severe the case, it was 'look and live.' The common notion is that salvation is for good people, church workers, and those who are examples and moral specimens. But how different is the word of God and how different this example! God's grace is for the guilty; Christ the Saviour is for sinners (Rom. 5:6-8; Matt. 9:10-13). God's mercy is for the miserable who cannot help themselves. We have no gospel for sham sinners nor pretended professors. Our gospel is for the lost, as Moses' serpent was for the hopelessly bitten Israelites.

      An interesting commentary on human nature is found in 2 Kings 18:1-4. The people saved the serpent of brass and began to worship it, so Hezekiah, King of Judah, had to destroy it, calling it 'only a piece of brass.' Do not people today tend to worship the land where Christ lived, calling it the Holy Land? Do they not worship the place where he died and lay buried? Is not the cross itself an object of worship? What idolatry! It is not the cross that saves but the Christ of the cross.

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See Also:
   Foreward & Acknowledgements
   1 - The Fall
   2 - Abel's Offering
   3 - The Ark Of Noah
   4 - Sarah and Hagar; Law and Grace
   5 - The Lord Will Provide
   6 - A Bride for the Heir
   7 - Bethel - The House of God
   8 - Peniel - The Face of God
   9 - Joseph Opens the Storehouses
   10 - Joseph and His Brothers
   11 - Shiloh
   12 - The Passover
   13 - The Manna
   14 - Water from the rock
   15 - The Blood Before the Lord
   16 - The Ram of Consecration
   17 - The Day of Atonement
   18 - Caleb - The Faithful Dog
   19 - The High Priest Intercedes
   20 - The Brazen Serpent
   21 - A Prophet Like Moses
   22 - The Cities of Refuge
   23 - Joshua
   24 - The Scarlet Line in the Window
   25 - The birth of Samson
   26 - The Kinsman Redeemer
   27 - The Song of Hannah
   28 - Give us a King
   29 - Saul's Great Sin
   30 - David and Mephibosheth
   31 - Why God Permitted David to Fall
   32 - Comfort from God's Covenant
   33 - I Will Not Offer to God that which Cost me Nothing
   34 - The Queen of Sheba Comes to Solomon
   35 - Three Examples of Faith
   36 - Where is the Lord God of Elijah?
   37 - Empty Vessels Filled
   38 - Naaman, the Leper
   39 - Open his Eyes that He may See
   40 - Four Lepers Teach us a Lesson
   41 - Nehushtan--A Piece of Brass
   42 - Bringing Back the Ark
   43 - Uzziah's Great Transgression
   44 - Four Things Learned in Trouble
   45 - How Can Man be Just With God?
   46 - Three Vital Questions
   47 - I Know that my Redeemer Liveth
   48 - Now Mine Eye Seeth Thee
   49 - The Psalm of Messiah the King
   50 - God's two great books
   51 - The Psalm of the Cross
   52 - The Lord is my Shepherd
   53 - True God - True Israel - True Redeemer
   54 - Eight Great Precepts
   55 - My Hope is in Thee
   56 - Many, O Lord, Are Thy Wonderful Works
   57 - A Song of Love
   58 - The Sinner's Prayer
   59 - My Rock and my Salvation
   60 - Our Lord's Sufferings for Our Sins
   61 - Mercy and Truth are Met Together
   62 - The Victory of the Messiah
   63 - Bless the Lord, O my Soul
   64 - Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So
   65 - The King-Priest
   66 - The Chief Cornerstone
   67 - The Observer and the Observed
   68 - Praise the Lord O my Soul
   69 - Wisdom in Christ
   70 - The Conclusion of the Whole Matter
   71 - Remember Now Thy Creator
   72 - My Beloved is Mine and I am His
   73 - What is Thy Beloved more than Another Beloved?
   74 - The Lord Our Righteousness
   75 - The Believers Hope
   76 - From Nothing to Everything
   77 - Lost, Driven Away, Broken, Sick
   78 - Can These Bones Live?
   79 - Four Things God Taught Nebuchadnezzar
   80 - Thy God Will Deliver Thee
   81 - Hosea--Type of Christ
   82 - A Famine to be Feared
   83 - Salvation is of the Lord
   84 - A Fountain Opened for Mourners
   85 - The Messenger of the Covenant

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