Numbers 21:7-9 (NIV) 7The 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.  8The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”  9So 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.         

John 3:14-15 (NIV) 14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,  15that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

The episode involving the snakes in the desert raises some interesting questions. Why would God punish the Israelites but then provide a way for them to avoid His punishment? Is God vindictive and moody or is something else happening here?  

First, consider the context of the Israelites’ complaints. For several decades, God miraculously fed and watered them. And He just answered their prayers by giving them a military victory (v. 1-3). But the people become impatient; things are not going according to their plans and they have lots to complain about. Does this response sound familiar? In these circumstances, it is fair to say they deserve what is coming to them. Without God’s grace, they would have died long ago. In a way, God is saying, “You want to see what life is like without my protection? Fine, I’ll let you fend for yourselves.”  

Given their rebellion, it is incredible that God provided a way for the people to escape His punishment. Interestingly, He did not simply remove the consequences of their sin. But He provided a way to be healed if the people chose to look up for their salvation.  

So what does this story tell us about God’s character? Far from acting randomly, God gives us freedom to choose our own destiny. Yet, even when negative consequences are our own fault, if we recognize our failings, He provides a way to make us whole.  

Our choices matter. If we choose to believe in Jesus, eternal life in him is our reward.  

Are you living with regret or experiencing the negative consequences of past poor decisions? We all make mistakes and wish we would have done certain things differently. While God doesn’t always protect from the results of our choices, He wants to redeem those situations and heal our resulting brokenness. Bring your regret to God, ask Him to heal your heart, and to show you how to best fix the situation. Do you need to ask someone to forgive you? Do you need to talk to someone you trust about how to not make the same mistake in the future?  

Memory Verse: Matthew 11:28-29 (NIV)
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”