When the Snake Bites ...

by Mary

Here’s the truth …

“Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole.  All who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!” (Numbers 21:8 NLT).

Ever read something in God’s Word and say, “That’s in the Bible?  Really?”  Like when I once read that a group of boys were mocking Elisha, calling him “baldy,” and God sent two bears who emerged from the woods and mauled the boys (2 Kings 2:23-24 NLT).  Or when the King of Moab summoned Balaam, and God told him to go but was angry about it and created stumbling blocks for him by way of an angel standing in the middle of the road that only Balaam’s devoted donkey could see.  When he got tired of being beaten to move ahead, the donkey started speaking—yes, speaking real words—to Balaam (Numbers 22:28-30 NLT).  Or when, out of the blue, Moses was walking with his family to Egypt and the Lord wanted to kill him—which is cryptic enough—but Zipporah, his wife, saved the day by circumcising her son, then and there, and touching Moses with the foreskin (Exodus 4:24-26 NLT).  Say what, now? 

My good friend from my college days texts me things like that when she stumbles upon them, and so do I to her.  Recently, I read about God sending snakes to the Israelites out of anger for their complaints about a lack of water and a plethora of manna (Numbers 21:6-9 NLT).  Many were bitten by the snakes and died, so Moses prayed for God to take away the snakes.  God had Moses make a bronze snake to hoist on a pole and promised that all who would look upon it would be healed from their snake bite!  Of course, I sent this to my friend.  A bronze snake on a pole??  Really?  My friend actually replied, “Cured by a craft,” which, of course, is hilarious.  If Pinterest was around then, Moses could have posted his snake creation for sure!       

Ironically, a few days later, both of us, living five hours away from each other, listened to our pastors deliver sermons on that very passage in Numbers!  Isn’t God amazing?  He certainly wanted to get our attention.  So, I was inspired to pick it apart more carefully to try to understand why.  I mean, twice in one week is cause for investigation!

So I began to ask myself, What have I been complaining about a lot lately?  What bitterness do I have inside of me that needs to be healed?  In my mind, one thing stood out.  In my effort to express my gratitude at God’s provision, I also keep dwelling on the bad stuff from which He rescued us!   In doing so, it has been very easy to shake my head at having had to deal with the bad stuff in the first place!  The same could be said of the Israelites who complained and complained to be rescued from Egypt only to complain later that they were rescued at all!

God brought them circuitously—like a forty-year route—to the Promised Land because of all of this complaining!  If I’m not careful and not genuinely thankful, I can delay His promises to me for much longer than I would ever want. 

Relating this to the verses at hand, I need to quit looking at the snakes that have bitten me and focus only on the Savior who rescued me from them!  We seem to ignore the fact that the snakes were sent by God to His chosen people to begin with.  He wanted them to experience the snakes!  That’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s true. 

That brings to mind how I behave as a parent.  I literally told my daughter one day that I’ll turn the car right around if she doesn’t start expressing some gratitude for my summer chauffeuring that I do for her!   I love my daughter, so I might think that in training her up to be a model heavenly citizen, I should have her experience a long walk in order to appreciate more fully the car in which she is freely allowed to ride!

God clearly loves to give that kind of training as well.  He allows those snakes to be a part of your life for a reason.  Are there lessons we need to learn, does our faith need to be tested, do we have character flaws to overcome, have we been complaining too much, etc.?  Those can all be reasons why God would allow the snakes to come biting.

And if I were to wager a bet, the main reason that God would allow the snakes is because He wants us to be able to point to Him as the rescuer later.  He wants to get the glory.  We see it in Scripture over and over again.  In Acts, for example, we learn that a believer named Tabitha became ill and died.  She was known for making coats and clothing for widows and the poor.  She was brought to the upper room to await her burial.  Peter arrived from a neighboring town and ushered out all the weeping people, praying over the dead Tabitha.  She subsequently emerged alive!  News spread, understandably, and “many believed in the Lord” (Acts 9:42 NLT).  Notice that it doesn’t say, “Many began to follow Peter.”  The glory went to God.  God allowed the beautiful Tabitha to die and used Peter to bring about His rescue.  While others merely cried, Peter cried out to God in prayer and was answered.

The same is true of Hannah, one of two wives of a man named Elkanah.  The Bible states that “the Lord had closed her womb” (1 Samuel 1:5 ESV) or “the Lord had kept her from having children” (1 Samuel 1:6 NLT).  This went on for years, all while Elkanah’s other wife would have baby after baby.  Why would the Lord do something like that, especially because we learn that later she would go on to have six children, including Samuel the prophet (1 Samuel 2:21 NLT)?  I believe it was because this caused her to draw closer to the Lord than she ever would have otherwise, “in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:10 NLT).  Also, because when she did finally get pregnant with Samuel, this was the song that she would sing:  “My heart rejoices in the Lord!  The Lord has made me strong.  Now I have an answer for my enemies; I rejoice because You rescued me” (1 Samuel 2: 1 NLT).

Joyce Meyer said in a recent radio broadcast that Paul never prayed for God to take away opposition from people.  He merely prayed for God to help them endure it.  Opposition is a reality.  Thankfully, if you are filled with bitterness because of something that He allowed to happen in your life, He can heal you of that venom that’s inside of you from that snake bite!  You just need to look upon Him as the only provision you need.  And sing praises of gratitude when He rescues you.

…and that’s the truth as I know it!