The Israelites themselves grumbled against God and against Moses (Numbers 21:4–5). Despite all that God had done for them, they were not satisfied and rebelled against him. Their rebellion could not go unchecked, and so God initially sent judgment on the people (verse 6). God’s ultimate plan though was to redeem and bless his people, restoring their relationship with him.
They confessed their sin and ‘the Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived’ (verses 8 and 9).
Speaking of this incident in the desert Jesus said, ‘Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him’ (John 3:14–15). Jesus is referring, of course, to his death on the cross.
God, in his generosity, provides the sacrifice that enables you to know forgiveness. The uplifted snake in Moses’ day brought physical life to those who looked in faith. The uplifted crucified Christ brings eternal life to anyone who looks in faith and believes in him. You cannot earn forgiveness. Eternal life is a free gift, but you still have to choose to accept that gift. Believing is an act of the will that accepts the free gift of God.
And that’s the Memo.