Look and Live
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. Numbers 21:5-9 NKJV
The above text recounts a significant part of Israel’s journey in the wilderness, after leaving Egypt, headed to the Promise Land. The trek had become hard, long and difficult, causing the Israelites to become discouraged and weary. The Israelites, like many people today, choose to complain and assign blame to God and others when faced with these and similar circumstances—rather than put their trust in God. Many Israelites died after being bitten by the poisonous snakes.
When Moses prayed, God instructed him to make a serpent of brass and erect it on a pole, which prefigured and foreshadowed Jesus hanging on the Cross (John 3:14, 15). Every Israelite who had been bitten by a fiery serpent lived if they looked upon the brass serpent (Heb. 12:2). In the same way, every unsaved person who believes in Jesus Christ is promised everlasting life—not necessarily a spiritual conversion, nor a rebirth—but “everlasting life” (John 3:16). God’s proposition to the sinful Israelites was: “look and live.”
The serpents were a type of sin; the brass was a type of judgment, as in the case of the Cross upon which Jesus Christ offered Himself much like the elevated brass altar in the Tabernacle of Moses (Ex. 27:1, 2. This brass serpent was a picture of sin judged and punished, and whoever looked at this serpent lived and not died. This is also a wonderful picture of Christ who bore our sins, and of the judgment of God against sin. Now anyone who “believes” on the Son of God and look to Him shall be saved (John 3:16, 17). This is not the new birth—it is salvation. Look and live!