Daily Encouragement: Year 2, Day 98

From Handbook to God’s Promises


Seeing the Consequences of Sin
(Numbers 21:4–9)

For many people, the truth of salvation becomes clearer as the consequences of sin come closer. And just as poisonous chlorine clears up cloudy water, so God introduced a little poison into Israel’s environment to clear up His people’s confusion about Him.

Silent, belly-borne terror slithered into Israel’s desert camp. This was a terrible scene—but the scene fit the crime. The Israelites had just spewed their own venom directly at Moses (and indirectly at God; see Num. 21:5). Fresh from a victory over the Canaanites (21:1–3), the Israelites were tired of the Sinai scene—“What’s your motivation here, Moses? Do you want us all to die out here?” They sank their fangs deep into Moses’s heart.

God released snakes in the camp initially to punish the people, but ultimately to save them. The people started crying—and dying. They were dying because of snakes in the camp, and the snakes were there because of the sin in their hearts. As soon as they saw the snakes, they saw their sin. No mirror reveals sin as clearly as sin’s consequences.

A prayer from Moses brought a promise from God: “Everyone who is bitten, when he looks at [the bronze snake Moses had made], he will live” (Num. 21:8). God didn’t instantly remove the snakes from the camp. He didn’t even keep them from biting people. He just promised that those who had been bitten could be saved. How? By coming face-to-face with an image of the consequences of their sin. Looking at the bronze serpent meant agreeing with God that they had sinned.

Almost 1,500 years after this incident, Jesus promised that just as Moses had lifted up a snake for salvation in the desert, so the Son of God Himself would be lifted up for eternal life (John 3:14–15). The next time you come face-to-face with who you are, remember that God has lifted up someone to save you. Not a snake, but a Savior.

God is concerned about our sin—so concerned that He lets us see the consequences of it: His Son lifted up on a cross. Like the Israelites in the desert, turning our eyes upon the consequences of our sin becomes our salvation.

God’s Promise:
You will be saved from sin by looking to Jesus.