Numbers 21:4-9



A.the record of the brazen serpent reveals how Israel sinned against God, and how God sent fiery serpents, which bit many and caused death

1.when Moses prayed for the people, God instructed him to make a serpent of brass and put it upon a pole so it might be seen by the people

2.when a serpent-bitten and dying Israelite looked upon that brazen serpent upon the pole, he would live

B.this case of physical salvation in the OT, illustrates spiritual salvation in the NT

1.this is the only shadow of the cross pointed out by Jesus - John 3:14-15

2.He did not want us to miss this type, which is the clearest of all the pictures of Calvary in the OT

C.from this remarkable experience, we can learn some great truths

II.the need of salvation

A.we see this need in the condition of the people of Israel

1.they were in the barren wilderness as a result of their unbelief, but God graciously cared for them

2.He gave them water from the rock, and bread from Heaven; yet in spite of His goodness, the Israelites were filled with murmurings and rebellion against God

3.they murmured about their food, but this was a heart matter, not a stomach matter

4.they were a rebellious people; and rebellion against God is sin; they were sinners – Numbers 21:7

5.we should not judge Israel too harshly, because we "all have sinned" – Romans 3:23

B.the rebellion of Israel against God had to do with the manna which God sent them from Heaven [our soul loatheth this light bread] - Numbers 21:5

1.the rebellion of the sinner today has to do with the rejection of the true Bread of Heaven

2.the manna in the wilderness was another type of the Lord Jesus Christ - John 6:32-33

3.the sinner today, in his rebellion against God, rejects the Son of God, who alone can save

C.the wages of Israel’s sin was death – [and much people of Israel died] Numbers 21:6

1.the bite of the fiery serpents was the cause of death, which was the judgment of God

2.the same is true of the sinner today, he is under the sentence of death

3.the Scriptures tell us of one who is called "that old serpent,…the Devil"

a)this old serpent bit the human race six thousand years ago; the human race is a serpent-bitten race

b)the poison of sin is still working death in man today

III.the basis of salvation

A.God told Moses to make a serpent of brass and to lift it up on a pole; that was God’s plan, not man’s

1.the people said to Moses, "pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us" (vs. 7), that was their method

a)would that have helped them? no, they would still die because of the poison of the bite

b)that was the best plan they could think of, but the Lord’s plan of relief was different from theirs

(1)by their plan, the serpent-bitten would be delivered to death

(2)by His plan, the serpent-bitten would be saved

(3)those under death and beyond human rescue are not beyond His aid

2.this is a fitting demonstration of salvation

a)God’s deliverance is not of the innocent and healthy, but of the guilty and sick, those under wrath and the sentence of death

b)when Moses lifted up the serpent of brass, it was necessary for the bitten ones to look upon it to receive life

B.the serpent was made of brass

1.brass is symbolic of judgment

a)in the tabernacle, the altar of brass is were the sacrifice for sin was made

b)in Revelation, when Jesus is about to return in judgment, He is described as having feet like brass

2.God told the Israelites that if they sinned, heaven above would be like brass - Deuteronomy 28:23

3.when they looked upon the serpent of brass on a pole, they looked upon a judgment scene; at Calvary, Christ was judged for our sins

C.the brazen serpent was made in the likeness of that which brought death

1.we are told in Scripture that "sin entered into the world, and death by sin," and then again, "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin" - 2 Corinthians 5:21

2.Jesus was made to be that which brought death to us

3.the brazen serpent on the pole was made in the likeness of the poisonous serpent, but there was no poison in it

a)there was no sin in Christ; He had flesh, but not sinful flesh

b)He had a human nature, but not a carnal nature

c)He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin

D.the brazen serpent was lifted up on a pole

1.the effectiveness of the whole transaction depended upon this

2.the Son of Man must be lifted up on the cross; no other death would do

3.Jewish law provided for death by stoning, but Christ stoned to death could not save

a)He must be hanged on the cross, but why

b)there are two curses in the OT

(1)one declares, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" - Galatians 3:10, Deuteronomy 27:26

(a)could this curse come upon Christ; in righteousness–no; in grace–yes

(b)the law could not righteously curse the perfectly obedient One; it could only bless and reward Him

(2)there was one way in which the curse of the law could fix itself upon the Righteous One

(a)there was a law which pronounced one mode of death accursed: "He that is hanged is accursed of God" - Deuteronomy 21:23, Galatians 3:13

(b)this was God’s plan, whereby Christ might bear our curse and deliver us from under it

4.Christ did not deserve the cross and the curse, as the Righteous One; but He bore them in our place as our gracious substitute

a)the law finds in Him all perfection, yet He is the substitute of the guilty

b)He obeyed the commands of the law perfectly, yet He suffered the full penalty and curse of that law

c)Jesus said, "Even so MUST the Son of man be lifted up" - John 3:14

(1)it was absolutely necessary, for the God of law MUST act righteously

(2)the Governor of the universe MUST maintain His law; the God of truth MUST keep His Word

5.the Gospel shows us wrath lying on the Guiltless One, while the guilty ones go free

IV.the condition of salvation

A.when Moses formed the serpent of brass and put it upon the pole, the means of salvation was completed

1.all that was needed was to accept it; God promised that the bitten ones who looked, would be healed

2.Jesus Christ upon the cross is a finished work; a look of faith to Him is enough to deliver us must be a look of faith

a)thousands looked upon Jesus dying on the cross, and only laughed and mocked; they perished

b)the thief on the cross looked upon Him with the eye of faith, and He was saved

B.they were not told to look at their wounds

1.they were conscious of their wounds, just as we are conscious of our sins

2.looking at our sins will never save us, we must look to Him

C.they were not told to look at Moses

1.Moses was the lawgiver; he stands for the law, and many are looking to the Law today

2.God declared that salvation is "not by the works of the law" - Galatians 2:16

D.they were not told to shake off the serpents, any more than we are told to shake off our sins to be saved

1.shaking off of sins is reformation, not salvation

E.they were not told to go through some form of Jewish ritual to be saved; they were told to look

1.rituals and sacraments of the church will not save

2.those dying Israelites could do nothing to contribute to the healing power of the serpent on the pole

3.certainly, we can add nothing to the finished work of Christ upon the cross; all we need do is to look

F.the Israelites were not told to minister to others in order to be saved; it is "not of works" – Eph 2:8-9

1.the lost sinner is saved by a look; the Christian life begins by looking - Isaiah 45:22

2.the Christian life continues by looking - Hebrews 12:1-2 the end of the Christian life, we are still to be looking for Christ - Philippians 3:20

V.the extent of salvation

A.the uplifted serpent was sufficient to save every serpent-bitten Israelite; the sacrifice of Calvary is sufficient to save every sinner was the misery and certain death of the sinner, that awoke God’s compassion in both cases each case God provided salvation for the wicked and the rebellious

3.a hospital is not erected for the healthy, but for the sick; salvation is not provided for the righteous, but for the sinner

a)it made no difference how many times a man had been bitten; the salvation which God provided was sufficient to save him, and would become effective the very moment he believed

b)it makes no difference how many sins we have committed; one look at Calvary will save made no difference how near death an Israelite might be; all he needed to do was look; it makes no difference how deep in sin nor how long in sin a man has been; one look will save

1.the remedy was so simple that any child could understand, yet so profound that the wisest cannot comprehend

2.we are not saved because we understand; we are saved because we believe

3.there are some who say "the preaching of the cross…is foolishness," but to the saved, it is "the power of God" - 1 Corinthians 1:18

VI.the effects of salvation

A.this was instantaneous; the bitten Israelite did not gradually mend, but he was saved instantly

B.the very moment a sinner looks to Christ with the look of faith, that sinner is saved

1.salvation is not a gradual betterment, but the reception of a new life

2.when the Israelite looked to the brazen serpent, the result of that look was a new life

C.we have noticed that the plan of the people was to take away the serpents, but God gave new life while the serpents still remained was a life that could not be harmed or taken away by the biting of the serpents

2.when a sinner looks to the uplifted Christ, sin and Satan are not taken away, but the one who looks is born from above and becomes a partaker of new life

D.whether we like it or not, and whether we believe it or not, it still remains true that among the vast horde of sinners of this world, the uplifted Christ is the only way of salvation