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The Fiery Serpents

Scripture Passage: 
Numbers 21:1-9

INTRODUCTION: This lesson points out another great failure on the part of God’s people. In this instance, the Lord shows us that one of the most dangerous times for the people of God is the time immediately following victory. When the people fail, the Lord sends serpents among them to bite them. The only hope is an uplifted brasen serpent.

  1. WAR WITH THE CANAANITES (Numbers 21:1-3)
    1. Attack from King Arad (Numbers 21:1)
      1. The Israelites went by the way of the spies.
      2. King Arad fought against them.
      3. Some Israelites were taken prisoners.
    2. The Vow of the Israelites (Numbers 21:2)
      1. If the Lord will deliver the people into their hand
      2. They would destroy their cities.
    3. The Lord Delivers (Numbers 21:3).
      1. The Lord delivered up the Canaanites.
      2. They destroyed the cities.
      3. The Lord called the place Hormah.
    1. The Problem of the People (Numbers 21:4-5)
      1. The path
        1. They journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea to compass the land of Edom.
        2. The soul of the people was much discouraged.
          1. Miriam died (Numbers 20:1).
          2. The people rebelled (Numbers 20:2-3).
          3. Moses and Aaron sinned (Numbers 20:11-12).
          4. Edom refused passage (Numbers 20:14, 17-18).
          5. Aaron died (Numbers 20:24, 29).
          6. The people fought Arad (Numbers 21:1-3).
        3. God’s purpose for the way
          1. To prove Israel (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)
          2. To prove Himself to us (Psalm 37:5, 23, 34)
        4. Practical application: We have a direction in mind that we believe the Lord ought to lead us. God does not always follow our plans, and often leads us in ways we would not choose, and we too become discouraged because of the way. We must not only turn our destination over to the Lord, but we must also turn our “way” over to the Lord.
      2. The persons
        1. They spake against God.
        2. They spake against the man of God – Moses.
        3. Practical application: Most of our anger in this life is aimed at one person. We would never admit it, but it is a fact. When we are angry, we are angry with God. Oftentimes we direct this toward the man of God over us, but it is ultimately a problem we have with God.
      3. The provision
        1. No bread
        2. No water
        3. Our soul loatheth this light bread.
        4. Practical application: We believe we deserve good things from this life. We deserve to always have the necessary funds to pay our bills. We deserve to be able to have some of the finer things this world has to offer. The fact is that we do not deserve anything. Those things that the Lord supplies for us are the best things we can have, and these things ought to satisfy us.
        5. No bread vs. light bread
          1. The Israelites claimed to have no bread. This is the statement of modern Christians and theologians. They would say to you that the bread of God (His word) is not available to us today.
          2. The Israelites claimed to loath the light bread. Apparently there was actually bread available, but they detested the bread that the Lord provided. No version on this planet bears the hatred as does the King James Bible. They loath it as light bread that doesn’t meet the needs of the people. The Israelites detested the bread from God and constantly longed for the food from Egypt. So it is today. The modern versions come from Egyptian manuscripts, and people would rather get their food from Egypt than from heaven.
    2. The Judgment from the Lord (Numbers 21:6)
      1. The Lord sent fiery serpents.
      2. They bit the people.
      3. Much people died.
    3. The Plea of the People (Numbers 21:7)
      1. The people came to Moses.
      2. The people recognized their sin.
      3. The people asked Moses to pray for their deliverance.
    4. The Remedy from the Lord (Numbers 21:8-9)
      1. The directions for the remedy (Numbers 21:8)
        1. Make a fiery serpent.
        2. Set it upon a pole.
        3. Every one that looks upon it shall live.
        4. This plan compared to the plan given in John 3:16
          1. A divine remedy
            1. Numbers 21:8  – “The LORD said”
            2. John 3:16 – “For God” (1 Peter 1:18-21)
          2. A simple remedy
            1. Numbers 21:8 – “a fiery serpent…upon a pole”
            2. John 3:16 – “his only begotten Son” (John 12:32)
          3. An instantaneous remedy
            1. Numbers 21:8 – “when he looketh”
            2. John 3:16 – “shall have” (Acts 16:30-32)
          4. An effectual remedy
            1. Numbers 21:8 – “he…shall live”
            2. John 3:16 – “everlasting life”
          5. An individual remedy
            1. Numbers 21:8 – “every one that is bitten”
            2. John 3:16 – “whosoever” (Romans 10:13)
          6. The only remedy
            1. Numbers 21:9 – “when he beheld the serpent of brass”
            2. John 3:16 – “in him” (John 14:6; Acts 4:12)
          7. A free remedy
            1. Numbers 21:9 – “when he beheld”
            2. John 3:16 – “he gave” (Romans 6:23)
      2. The performance of the instructions (Numbers 21:9)
      3. The worship of the brazen serpent (2 Kings 18:4)
        1. The serpent began to be worshipped.
        2. King Hezekiah broke it in pieces.
        3. The children of Israel burnt incense unto it.
        4. Hezekiah called it Nehushtan which means the brazen thing.

CONCLUSION: Man’s failure always requires God’s intervention. In this lesson, He uses a brasen serpent. In the New Testament, our Lord explains that this serpent was a foreshadowing of God’s solution to mankind’s problem with sin. Have you looked to the Saviour for relief from the sting of sin? The call still goes out today, “Look and Live.”

David Reagan and Andrew Ray

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 28:15

As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people.