Saturday after Exaudi
Scripture: Numbers 20:22—21:9 (NKJV)
20:22 Then the children of Israel, the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh and came to Mount Hor. 23 And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in Mount Hor by the border of the land of Edom, saying: 24 “Aaron shall be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter the land which I have given to the children of Israel, because you rebelled against My word at the water of Meribah. 25 Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up to Mount Hor; 26 and strip Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son; for Aaron shall be gathered to his people and die there.” 27 So Moses did just as the LORD commanded, and they went up to Mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. 28 Moses stripped Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there on the top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. 29 Now when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, all the house of Israel mourned for Aaron thirty days.
21:1 The king of Arad, the Canaanite, who dwelt in the South, heard that Israel was coming on the road to Atharim, then he fought against Israel and took some of them prisoners. 2 So Israel made a vow to the LORD, and said, “If You will indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.” 3 And the LORD listened to the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites, and they utterly destroyed them and their cities. So the name of that place was called Hormah. 4 Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” 6 So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. 7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.
The trip was lengthy and God’s people had become greatly discouraged on this journey. They should not have been so discouraged, for God went before them, revealing His presence among His people daily in the pillars of cloud and fire. God prevented their clothing and sandals from wearing out. He provided them with food and water in the midst of the dreary desert. He protected them from the warring tribes that they encountered along the way. Shamefully, though, the Israelites lashed out in frustration against Moses, and against God Himself. They lacked trust in God to deliver them from death in the wilderness. God then began to give them exactly what they envisioned: death.
God’s fiery serpents were directed at the turning of their self-pity into repentance over their sins. God used bronze metal to fashion another memorial, both to His wrath against sin and His mercy toward the faithful penitent sinner. The bronze serpent proclaimed that the fiery serpents were a manifestation of God’s anger, but that His wrath is appeased through faith in the sacrifice of God’s Christ, Who would be lifted up upon a Cross. Even as God’s people had to look with faith upon the serpent on the pole to see God’s salvation coming through it, so also God’s people use the eyes of faith to see the Crucified Christ, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Look upon Him, Faithful Israel, and live forever!