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 21:9
Visiting the city recently, I was running one of my favorite routes, when I inadvertently ran by a towering building, which reminded me of one of the more painful consequences of my addiction. In that building, I once had to meet with those who were tasked with holding me accountable for my destructive behaviors. I spent much of my run working through that painful memory.
The Israelites, in today’s passage, were also made to reflect upon the misery they visited upon themselves. Wandering in the wilderness, they once again grew discontent and expressed to God their displeasure with His plan. In response, God sent serpents to bite the people, killing many of them. In their sickness and death, the Israelites repented. God then told Moses to make a bronze serpent and lift it up on a pole, so that all who looked on it would be healed.
In looking at the serpent, the Israelites were made to comprehend the cause of their misery. It would have been a mistake to find the serpents to be at fault. They were just the vehicle by which the Israelites misery was visited upon them. The Israelites caused their own destruction in disobeying God. Looking to the bronze serpent caused them to reflect on this. Repentance required them to realize the serpents were their own fault.
Though I do not live, constantly looking back at my mistakes, I do, at times, need to remember my disaster. If I do not wish to ever return to that building, I must remember how I got there. When I disobey God, I cause my own misery.
Thankfully, the opposite it true as well. We are not promised worldly success in following God, but in following Him, we do find life, joy and peace. Later, on that same run, I ran by another landmark, which God used to remind me of the grace He has shown me in allowing me to put my life back together while following Him.