The Snake Story

JehovahNissi is only recorded once in the Bible, but the word nec (the root word of nissi) shows up several times in the Old Testament and emerges as a word picture that points us to the Messiah. I love the connections between the Old and New Testaments and this story is one of those times when God was thinking thousands of years down the road when He wrote the first part so that when it came time to teach us about the cross and doing life with Him, we would have a reference point for what He wanted us to understand.

The Snake story is recorded in
Numbers 21: 4-9. Israel is near the end of their 40-year journey in the wilderness. Most of the older generation has died. The Israelites who were 20 years and older when they came out of Egypt doubted God’s power to take them into the Promised Land and they all had to die in the wilderness before Israel was led in to conquer Canaan and the rest of the Promised Land. (Numbers 13 & 14) Miriam and Aaron’s death is recorded in Numbers 20, and the new generation that grew up in the wilderness was getting ready to go into Canaan. They encountered obstacles that pushed them to trust God. There were cities and kings and people who would not let them pass through their land to get to where God was taking them so they had to fight or go around.

This new generation was groomed to be the generation of faith. Every day they saw adults in their communities die because of disbelief. Mixed in with all of those funerals they also grew up immersed in the faithfulness of YHWH. They ate manna everyday because 6 nights a week while they slept God left a fresh batch, and there was always extra on the 6th day so they would not have to gather on the Sabbath. Many of the men were the first born sons whose lives had been redeemed by Passover lambs when they were kids. For 40 years their clothes did not fray and the soles of their sandals did not wear out. The cloud that led them by day and the pillar of fire that burned through the night was as reliable as the manna that had nourished them all their lives. They grew up in the Presence of God.

So you can understand how they roused God’s anger when at the end of the 40 years, when it was time to take the Promised Land, they questioned Moses and God’s leading. They grumbled about ever leaving Egypt in the first place even though a lot of them were too young to remember living there. Some were born in the wilderness and never lived in Egypt at all; maybe they were copying the complaints of the adults they had grown up with. They were sick of manna, they could't find water, and they groaned that Moses had led them there to die.

Their impatience drove them to a bout of complaining that proved to be fatal for some of them. How did God respond to their complaining in
Numbers 21:6?

People died from those snakebites. Not trusting this late in the game was serious. God was ready to take Israel into Canaan. This new generation had to be purged of doubters.

The people of Israel were quick to repent and asked Moses to pray to YHWH to take away the serpents. So Moses did pray for the people. What did the LORD tell him to do? (
Numbers 21:8,9)

Log into Blue Letter Bible and search for Numbers 21:8,9. What is the Strong’s reference number for the pole that Moses put the brass serpent on? __________________________

How did the pole with the bronze serpent serve as a nec for Israel during this situation?

Israel found themselves in a spiritual battle with true physical consequences. Their discontent and complaining was rooted in the sin of their own self-centeredness and instead of believing in God’s promises they focused on the obstacles they encountered. They really needed to get their focus back on God.

Their salvation was not in the bronze serpent. But in the midst of their chaos and struggle when they looked to the bronze snake raised up on the nec they were healed. They knew that the healing power came from the YHWH. When their focus was back on God and not on their circumstances they were healed.

When Jesus was speaking with Nicodemus he brought up the story of the bronze snake. We are going to look at it next time as we look at Jesus and JehovahNissi.