In our previous lesson, we looked at Numbers 13-14, specifically at the contrast between the children of Israel and Caleb and Joshua. The people had the chance to enter the Promised Land and, as a result of their unbelief, they are cursed to wander in the wilderness until they perish. Now, we get to Numbers 21. God is still faithful yet, the people have not changed. Some of our previous lessons are:
I. The Actions of the Lord
The Lord remains faithful to His promises even though the people have proven themselves faithless over and over again.
1 When the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who lived in the Negev, heard that Israel was coming by the way of Atharim, then he fought against Israel and took some of them captive.
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 The LORD heard the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites; then they utterly destroyed them and their cities. Thus the name of the place was called Hormah. (Numbers 21)
The people brought their requests before the Lord and He was faithful to listen to them. God delivered His people from the hand of the Canaanites even though His people did not deserve God’s mercy or grace. He chose to extend both of them to them. How are the people going to respond to the faithfulness of the Lord? Are they going to have an attitude of gratitude? Just read the next verse to find out.
II. The Contentious People
The people had just experienced the Lord’s mercy and grace. They should have been extremely gracious as well as grateful to the Lord.
4 Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey.
5 The people spoke against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.” (Numbers 21)
Instead of being grateful, the people become impatient with the journey that the Lord has them on. This is ironic because they are on this journey because of their bad attitude, bad words, and bad actions. Because of their lack of belief in the Lord’s plan, they were banned from the Promised Land. They are on this journey through the wilderness due to their own poor choices. The people are acting lack children, stomping their feet and speaking out against God and against Moses because things are going the way that they want. Not only were they doing this, they also began to complain about the free food that the Lord was giving to them. This sounds like my own kids at times.
Of course, choices and actions have consequences. This type of attitude, words, and actions brings about the judgment of God quickly.
The LORD sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. (Numbers 21:6)
For a moment, God withheld His mercy and grace and instead, He put forth justice and gave the people what they deserved. This finally caused the people to humble themselves and cease their childish ways.
So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD and you; intercede with the LORD, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people. (Numbers 21:7)
The people finally confess their sins to their spiritual leader. They admit to their wrong doing. They have to ask the very man they have treated poorly for help. Moses is gracious to the people.
III. God’s Provision of Salvation
Moses intercedes on behalf of the people who complained against him and had often times tried to put him to death.
8 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.”
9 And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived. (Numbers 21)
The Lord takes actions and reveals His plan of salvation to Moses. God demonstrates His mercy and grace in this plan. The people deserve the punishment that they are experiencing. The people do not deserve a second chance. God removes the punishment and gives a second chance via His salvation. The people had to make a choice. Were they going to accept God’s mercy and grace in the form of His salvation, or, where they going to try and save themselves?
Jesus uses this example in John chapter 3 when He explains how to enter the kingdom of heaven by being born again through faith in God’s salvation. Jesus explains that He is God’s salvation. The same way that the children of Israel had to surrender to God’s plan, so, we have to do the same today by surrendering to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
What about you my dear friend, have you accepted God’s plan of eternal salvation? Have you been born again? How do you speak about your spiritual mentor? Are you a complainer? Do you get impatient and try to cop an attitude with the Lord? Do you seem to find fault in everything that others do? Have you ever confessed your sins to a spiritual leader the way that the people of Israel did? May the Lord help us experience His salvation today, for His glory and for our own good!