March 14, 2012

March 14: Looking for bronze snakes

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By Becca Augsburger, a sophomore molecular biology/biochemistry major from Nicholasville, Ky.
SCRIPTURE: Numbers 21:4-9 (NRSV)
Scroll down for complete Scripture.
DEVOTIONAL:

In this Old Testament passage, God’s people are feeling forgotten and persecuted because of their wandering in the desert. The Israelites rebuke God with their desire to be back in Egypt where they held the place of slaves instead of the dry, barren desert. They challenge God with their claims and complaints and he responds, but not how they are expecting. God sends poisonous snakes throughout the Israelite camp and their bites kill many people. When the Israelites realize that God had indeed been with them and looking over them, they repent and construct a bronze snake as a symbol of healing, new life and God’s presence in their lives.

When I contemplate this story as we approach Easter, I am struck by the similarities between this Old Testament story and the story of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. In both stories God’s people have grown distant and rebellious, and in both stories God uses a very powerful event and memorable symbol to remind his people of their sin and forgiveness. In the New Testament, God uses the cross to awaken his people to his power, love and forgiveness. Through the cross God gave us healing and new life, as God did for the Israelites with the bronze snake. We can live because of God’s healing and Christ’s sacrifice.

It is fascinating how two stories so far apart can share such significant and encouraging images of God’s presence and power. He is there. We just need to look for the bronze snake or cross in our lives and be reminded of how blessed we are.

SCRIPTURE: Numbers 21:4-9 (NRSV)
4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. 5 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 we detest this miserable food.” 6 Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

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Comments (4)

  1. Thanks for this thoughtful devotional. Without it, I would not have seen the similarities between Moses’ bronze snake and the Cross.

    Guy March 14, 2012 |
  2. Becca,
    This is really good! Two huge events to get our attention; the bronze snake and the cross.
    Thank you

    Sanford Yoder March 14, 2012 |
  3. In another Lent meditation, the scripture reference for today was Matt 27:27-29. In these recent times, there has been much talk about bullying that occurs especially among children. However as I read the Matthew scripture, I couldn’t help but see how Jesus was bullied. That seems to relate to the Numbers scripture referenced above and the meditation above. Thanks for your thoughts.

    Nancy March 14, 2012 |
  4. Sometimes, when I read this Bible passage, it strikes me as somewhat ironic. I think of how the Israelites made the image of a calf in an act of idolatry against God, and sometime thereafter, God asked Moses to make an image of an animal in order to save the Israelites.

    Elizabeth S.O. March 18, 2012 |