Christ Took Our Curse
In Numbers 21, the Israelites became outspoken in their criticism of Yahweh and Moses. Based on the judgment they incurred, it was likely that this had the potential of leading to a coup. A plague of serpents was released by God to stop it.
“Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey. The people spoke against God and 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 miserable food.’ The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people so that many [people of Israel] died.” (Numbers 21:4-6)
When Moses interceded for the people, the Lord’s instruction to him was profoundly important. Yahweh saw this occasion as an opportunity to picture satan, the serpent (Genesis 3:1; Revelation 20:2); the curse that resulted from Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:14-19); and the Cross, God’s remedy for the sin (John 3:10-21).
Moses was instructed to form a serpent from bronze, and hang it on a pole in the center of Israel’s encampment. Whenever anyone was bitten by one of these serpents, if they looked at this pole, they were healed. “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.’” (Numbers 21:8)
First, there can be no doubt that the fiery serpents in this account symbolized satan (and his demons), who seduced Adam and Eve into questioning God’s nature and partaking in the forbidden fruit. But did the antidote, the serpent on the pole, also picture satan? No. Shockingly, Jesus equated the serpent on the pole to Himself! How can such a thing be? How could a serpent be used to picture Christ? Three passages, Deuteronomy 21:22-23, Galatians 3:13, and John 3:13-14 give us the answer.
Deuteronomy 21: 22-23: “If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God) so that you do not defile your land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance.”
Galatians 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’”
John 3:14: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”
According to these verses, Christ became our substitute, taking the curse that came on the human race at the Fall. When He hung on the tree (Cross), it pictured this. Allowing Him to be pictured by the bronze serpent simply shows that He identified with our sin and curse, taking the sting of death for us. Also, in the Old Testament system of sacrifice, bronze symbolized judgment. When Christ fulfilled this Old Testament picture painted by Moses, He was taking humankind’s curse, our judgment of death, and giving us life. “Everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he shall live” (Numbers 21:8).
Christ on the Cross was the antidote. His substitution removed the sting of sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:55-56), gave us eternal life (John 3:16), and bestowed on believers the blessings that were given to Abraham (Galatians 3:14).
As the Israelites had to look at the serpent on the pole, we must “look” to Christ on the Cross to receive these blessings. Jesus defined what it means to “look” upon Him. After revealing that the bronze serpent on the pole pictured Him (John 3:15), Christ made the statement that summarizes the salvation message more than any other: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Believing in Christ’s finished work at the Cross is the way to life, blessing, healing, restoration to God’s family, and fellowship with our Heavenly Father.
We are also given a word of caution, however, regarding this symbol Moses used. Over the passage of time, it became an idol, and was given the name Nehushtan. This word most likely means “a brazen thing” or “a piece of bronze.” A thousand years later, 2 Kings 18:4 tells us that the Israelites had begun to worship and burn incense to it. In his purging of idolatry from Israel, Hezekiah destroyed this symbol.
We must not worship symbolic objects, regardless of how wonderful the truth that they represent. Our faith must be placed in the fulfillment, not the symbolism. Reminders that point us to Christ and His redemption are appropriate; idols are not. When we eat the Communion bread and drink the juice, we are using them only as symbols, reminders. Jesus said when we do so, we “remember” what He did for us (Luke 22:19).
However, this does not diminish the importance of Communion whatsoever. Remembering what Christ did causes our faith to engage. It motivates us to “proclaim,” both in our hearts and from our mouths, the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). Communion is theological, rooted in Scripture; devotional, enhancing our relationship with God; and confrontational, proclaiming the power and victory of Christ’s Cross.
Pray with me:
Father, thank You for loving us so much that You sent Your Son to redeem us from the curse of sin and death. We have placed our faith wholly in that sacrifice. The Cross produced complete victory over sin and satan’s kingdom. We proclaim this victory now as we look at the man, Jesus, taking our curse, in order to give us life and blessing.
As we take the bread today, we are proclaiming that by Christ’s stripes, we are healed. We are proclaiming that the chastisement for our peace and wholeness was upon Him, that He bore our grief and sorrows. We ask You, through the power released when Jesus’ body was broken, to bring healing and wholeness to our nation, as well. (Take the bread)
And as we partake of this cup, we declare that the power of Christ’s shed blood is greater than all of our sins. We proclaim that His blood cleanses us from ALL sin and unrighteousness. We ask You to cleanse, not only our individual lives, but also our nation. Root out evil, judge the strongholds of darkness, and restore us to Your Kingdom cause. Pour out Your spirit in our land, and begin with the youth of America. Rescue them from evil and the wickedness they have been exposed to by our media, our education system, and our government. Deliver and save them with Your mighty arm, we pray in the name of Jesus. (Take the cup)
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