Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived. Numbers 21:6-9
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. John 3:14-15
It must have been a bizarre scene. People getting bit by venomous snakes and rather than running for the snake bite kit, they scamper towards an uninhibited view of a bronze serpent on a pole. Where’s the logic in that?
John 3:14-15 communicates to us a couple things about faith. First, faith is founded upon something – something that is known and reliable. Without this component of “the known,” belief is not called faith, but foolishness. We begin with what we have when it comes to putting our faith in God. Some people have studied and researched the truths of Scripture while others have only heard the basic Gospel message, but either way, they had something on which they stood before they stepped out in faith.
But no matter how knowledgeable one may be about the claims of the Bible, he or she always comes to a point of decision, a “crisis of belief” as Henry Blackaby calls it, where they cannot remain where eyes can see or where hands can hold, but they step out into an unknown to trust God. Logic and reason will get an individual up to the point of faith, but never into it. This is why “heroes of the faith” like those mentioned in Hebrews 11 did not need finely tuned theories and syllogisms to believe God. They simply believed God based upon what He had already revealed to them.
Back to that crazy snake story. The faith of those bitten was revealed by their gaze upon a metallic serpent on a pole – not usually the most effective way to cure a snake bite! But it’s not as though they acted without reason – they had been told by Moses who had been instructed by God Himself that there was healing power for those who would look upon the serpent’s image. For those who did and were healed, they ultimately had to take “a leap into the dark”; just not necessarily a “blind leap.”
In light of this symbolic narrative from the Hebrews’ exodus to the Promise Land, what are we to do with it? Haven’t been bitten by a snake lately? Haven’t noticed any serpents hanging on poles in your neighborhood?
Probably not. But have you been doubting whether or not God really has anything good in store for your future? Are you paralyzed by the fear of losing a loved one who can’t seem to get well? Are you anxious about how your finances will ever clear up, allowing you to get out from underneath the pile of debt you seem to live under? Is it difficult to imagine that your family will ever be able to stop fighting and be a semblance of people who love each other again?
If these or other questions shake your faith today, remember that it wasn’t what you could logically or practically do that saved you in the first place. Remember that the same method that first brought you into a right relationship with God – looking to His one and only Son hanging on a tree – is the same method that you will employ as you walk where eyes cannot see and hands
Todd Arnett, Senior Pastor