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Daily Devotional: Saturday 12th September

by William Moody

Numbers 21:1–9

Arad Destroyed

21:1 When the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who lived in the Negeb, heard that Israel was coming by the way of Atharim, he fought against Israel, and took some of them captive. And Israel vowed a vow to the LORD and said, “If you will indeed give this people into my hand, then I will devote their cities to destruction.”1 And the LORD heeded the voice of Israel and gave over the Canaanites, and they devoted them and their cities to destruction. So the name of the place was called Hormah.2

The Bronze Serpent

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze3 serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

Footnotes

[1] 21:2 That is, set apart (devote) as an offering to the Lord (for destruction); also verse 3
[2] 21:3 Hormah means destruction
[3] 21:9 Or copper

(ESV)

The Israelites are now at the southern edge of the Promised Land in the Negev. They are attacked and lose some of their people to the King of Arad (v1). The Israelites respond with a vow to totally destroy these cities (v2). This was partly as a judgment from God (see Genesis 15v16). God hears their prayers and victory is secured in God’s strength (v3).

Are there areas in your life where you are trying to secure victory relying on your strength rather than relying on the Lord’s strength?

The Israelites once more return to a time of complaining (v4-5). God’s response is to send venomous snakes in judgment (v6). The people plead with Moses to intercede (v7) and he under God’s instructions makes a bronze snake (v8) and the people are saved by looking at it (v9).

Jesus used this story when speaking to Nicodemus to explain how he would be lifted up like the snake and people would receive salvation through looking to Him in faith (see John 3 v14-16).

Like the Israelites we are persistent sinners and our only hope is looking to the crucified for forgiveness and grace. This looking to Jesus in faith is not just a one off event at the moment of salvation but needs to be ongoing in our Christian lives.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®),
copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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