Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
“Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died.
– Numbers 21:6
What an odd story we read in Numbers today!
The Hebrew people, in the midst of their Exodus journey, lapse into complaining about everything, and God sends poisonous serpents among them with deadly results. Suddenly the people are sorry, and Moses provides an odd remedy: an image of a serpent on a pole upon which the people are to fix their gaze. And it works!
What do you think? Is this odd story telling history? Did God command this? Does God command this sort of thing? Or is this a story to convey meaning to us?
What if, as one preacher has put it, the snakes “are the things we let loose on one another and ourselves when we feel insecure and discontented?”* Can we understand that we humans are the ones who bite each other like snakes?
And what if the image of a snake on a pole is to make us look at what we’ve done, as hard as that may be? And what if it is in looking at what we’ve done that we are moved to sorrow and repentance and amendment of life, which is the first step in healing?
Jesus came among us, and we found it hard to accept the truth he told about us, so we bit him. We put him up on a pole, a cross. He reminds us of what we’ve done to hurt, and simultaneously he offers us God’s forgiveness and healing.
- Jonathan Weldon