I came downstairs in my apartment and found a black racer snake. Inside. My. Apartment. Hey, if a guy like Indiana Jones hates snakes, I think my fear is reasonably justified. (Even maintenance wasn’t excited to find and remove it.)
Now every time I walk down the stairs, it’s with fear and trembling. I stuff a towel under my door at night. The only positive from this whole scenario is that it might help convince my roommates to let me buy a kitten. (Pretty please???)
While my snake story is laughable in retrospect as long as it never happens again, there’s an Old Testament snake episode that was deadly serious.
Israel’s Snake Story
Because of their unbelief, God sent the children of Israel to wander in the wilderness for 40 years before they could inherit the promised land of Canaan. Yet time and time again, they tested God.
They forgot how He parted the waters of the Red Sea and consumed Pharaoh and his army (Exodus 15:4). They forgot how he provided miraculous manna to feed them (Exodus 16:15). They forgot all His faithfulness.
So time and time again, God had to chastise them to bring them back to a place of obedience. We know God disciplines those He loves (Proverbs 3:12), but correction is never pretty. Especially when the heavenly Father is holding the paddle.
Numbers 21 tells the story of God sending serpents into Israel’s camp to punish the people for their rebellion against Him. Many died from the venomous bites. The people confessed their sin, and Moses prayed to God for mercy on behalf of the people.
As He always does, God provided a way of escape. He commanded Moses to create a serpent statue and raise it up for the people to see. When someone was bitten, all he had to do was look up at the brass statue to be healed. (Numbers 21:8-9)
Looking to the Cross
How many of us are like unbelieving Israel at times? We’ve seen God do great things in our lives and in the lives of those we love, yet when faced with difficult circumstances, we forget His past goodness and doubt His plan.
I can’t imagine anything attractive about a brass snake statue. Except one: Looking at it saved lives from imminent death.
I also can’t imagine anything beautiful about a wooden cross, the Roman method of an excruciating execution. Except one: My Savior died on one so I could live.
Jesus referenced this analogy when He predicted the kind of death He would die.
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (KJV)
Those words are recorded in John 3:14-15, the verses immediately preceding one of the most beloved promises in all of Scripture: John 3:16.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (KJV)
Celebrating the Resurrection
The observed anniversary of Jesus’ death (Good Friday) and His Resurrection three days later fall at the end of this month. Jesus’ agony on the cross of Calvary does not paint a pretty picture. Anyone who has heard the details of what He endured for us or watched a representation of it through film knows how gruesome it was.
But Jesus suffered for you. For me.
The author of Hebrews said He did so for the joy set before Him. The only joy that could have been in His heart was obedience to His Father – and the realization that His death would provide the required payment so that sinners like you and me could live.
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 KJV)
I don’t know how you celebrate Easter or Resurrection Sunday, but whatever traditions you have, set aside quiet time for Jesus. To tell Him thank you for saving you. To remember His sacrifice. To rejoice that the grave could not hold Him.
As for me, finding the snake in my apartment has one silver lining. It reminded me of the Old Testament snake statue, which reminded me of the cross, which reminded me how much I have to thank my Jesus for. (Post Script Praise: And my apartment has been snake free for four whole days!)
What will you thank Jesus for today?