This week we will learn about how God healed the people in Numbers 21. If there was one thing the Israelites were good at, it was grumbling. They weren’t just good; they were experts: “We have no food. We have no water. Why are we in the wilderness left to die? The land has big people in it.” And on and on and on. We have to wonder how Moses put up with it all.
In Numbers 21, we encounter another time when the people grumbled—once again about food and water. Each time they doubted God’s goodness and truthfulness, God had shown them mercy and grace. But on this day, He sent serpents into the Israelites’ camp to strike them for their unfaithfulness. Many people died.
We might not like to think of it, but this is what the Israelites deserved all along. Their sin earned them judgment and death. God was perfectly just and righteous to give His people what they deserved.
Yet, as we have seen so often in the Old Testament and will continue to see throughout the rest of Scripture, God extends grace and mercy along with judgment. When the people pleaded for Moses to intercede on their behalf, God instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent and lift it on a pole. Whoever looked upon it would be healed.
Notice two things. First, God’s response was not to remove judgment but to provide salvation through judgment. This is another theme we have seen throughout the Scriptures (e.g. Noah, the plagues).
Second, God’s instructions made little to no sense. Imagine you are an Israelite and were just bitten by a serpent. Although other serpents are all around still, you are to take your eyes off of that threat and turn them upward to look at a bronze serpent on a pole—an image of the very thing that has brought death to your door?
This detail in the story is a foreshadowing of what God has called us to do in Christ. While our faith is far from blind, it always has an aspect of not making sense, at least to the world around us. But this is how we are saved too: by taking our eyes off of the sin in and around us, and looking upon Christ lifted up on the cross—He who became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). We too are saved through judgment, for our judgment has been placed on Christ.
I encourage you to read Numbers 21:4-9 with your children this week. Ask them:
- How did God show his anger toward sin in this passage?
- How did He show mercy toward sinners in this story?
- Anyone who looked at the bronze snake on the pole was healed. Who do we look to for forgiveness of sin?
- What other story does the bronze snake on a pole make us think of, and how does that story show God's anger towards sin and mercy toward sinners?
- The people complained and showed they did not trust God to give them what they needed. What are things we complain about?
The people didn't trust God to provide for their needs again. Hadn't God proven to them time and again that God provides for His people. How often do we do the same thing?
Sometimes we are blessed to be chosen to help with how God provides for others like Moses was. Talk with your children about how not everyone in the world has access to clean water, but we can help with that. One way we can do that is to raise money for organizations like World Vision who help to dig wells for communities in need. Watch this short video from World Vision together.
I encourage you to find ways with your children this week to earn money to help with the cause, maybe they can do chores around the house, help a neighbor with yard work, there is a lot of weeding that needs to be done this time of year, maybe they can collect cans and bottles, etc. Then together donate that money to World Vision here: https://mycause.worldvision.org/index.cfmfuseaction=donorDrive.personalCampaign&participantID=6365
Tell them that by giving they can be used by God to be a part of how He answers someone's prayer for clean water. Pray together for the people who will receive the clean water. Thank God for providing for our needs, thank Him for forgiving our sins including when we complain and don't trust Him, ask Him to help us to trust Him this week and thank Him for allowing us to help others.
Next week: No One Is Like God (1 Peter 1:13-25)
I hope to see you Sunday!