OceanSide church of Christ

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Victor M. Eskew




A.   The first time we are introduced to a serpent in the Bible is in Genesis 3:1.


Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.


B.    The second time a serpent is mentioned in the Bible is in connection with Jacob’s blessing upon Dan (Gen. 49:17).


Dan shall be a serpent by the way, and adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that the rider shall fall backward.


C.   The third time we read of a serpent is when God called Moses to Pharaoh to demand that he release Israel.

1.     Moses did not think that Israel would believe him when he said God had sent him to deliver them.

2.     At that point, God gave him three signs.  The first is found in Exodus 4:2-3.


And God said unto him, what is that in thine hand?  And he said, A rod.  And he said, Cast it to the ground.  And he cast it to the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled be-fore it.


D.   In case you were not aware, our lesson today has to do with serpents.

1.     Our text is found in Numbers 21:4-9.

2.     We have entitled out lesson:  “Snake Salvation.”


E.    A brief background study

1.     The children of Israel had been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years.

2.     Now, they are beginning to make the approach to Canaan.

3.     Edom refused passage through their land.

4.     King Arad the Canaanite fought against Israel, but Israel was victorious over him.

5.     The way around Edom was long and difficult (Nu. 21:4).


And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to compass the land of Edom:  and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.


6.     This brings us to the section of scripture for our study:  Numbers 21:5-9.


I.           REBELLION (Num. 21:5)


A.   Discouragement is an enemy of God’s people.

1.     Discouragement is simply a “loss of heart.”

2.     Those who grow discouraged look for someone to blame for the bleak conditions that they think exist.

3.     On this occasion, God’s people blame both God and Moses.

And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?  For there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth his light bread.


B.    In this verse, we see two things:

1.     The Longings of the Israelites.

a.     They seem to have a desire to go back to Egypt.

b.    They falsely believe that life would have been better there than their present conditions are.

c.    Remember, this is the second generation that is complaining.

d.    They probably do not remember the horrible oppression as well as their parents did, or, time had healed some of the horrors of the past.

2.     The Lies of the Israelites.

a.     Ye have brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness.

1.     This was the first lie.

2.     The reality is that they were closer to their ultimate destination than ever had been.

b.    There is no bread. 

1.     This was the second lie.

2.     They even admit that that had “light bread.”  This was the manna which God had provided for them.


C.   Lesson:  We must be careful when discouragement sets into our spiritual lives.

1.     It can cause us to rebel.

2.     It can cause us to long for that which is evil.

3.     It can cause us to believe lies about our present situation.


II.         RETALIATION (Num. 21:6)


And the Lord sent fiery serpent among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.


A.   God did not tolerate the foolishness of the Israelites.  He retaliated with quick and deadly punishment.


B.    God had been good to Israel.  He had given them:

1.     A leader who loved and cared for them

2.     Freedom from oppression

3.     Provisions for their journey

4.     A law for their new nation

5.     Hope of a promised land


C.   Instead of loving and trusting God, they rebelled against Him.


D.   Lessons:

1.     Haven’t we been blessed by God just as Israel was:  a leader, freedom, provisions, a law, and hope of a promised land?

2.     God will not tolerate our rebellion any more than He did Israel’s rebellion.

a.     Hebrews 10:28-31


He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses.  Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanc-tified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace:  for we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord,  And again, The Lord shall judge his people.  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.


b.    I Corinthians 10:9


Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.


III.       REPENTANCE (Num. 21:7)


Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he may take away the serpents from us.  And Moses prayed for the people.


A.   God’s judgment changed the minds of the people.


B.    In their penitent state, they did two things:

1.     They confessed their sin.

a.     They declared their sin:  We have sinned.

b.    The detailed their sin:  …for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee.

2.     They cried for intercession:  Pray unto the Lord, that he may take away he serpents from us.


C.   Lessons:

1.     When man is in sin, he is not thinking correctly (i.e., the prodigal son, Luke 15:17-19).

2.     Discipline often makes a person see the wrong of his actions.

3.     Discipline will sometimes cause a person to repent and turn from his wicked-ness and sin (I Cor. 5:5).


To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the Spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.


IV.        REQUIREMENTS (Num. 21:8)


A.   Moses made intercession for the people.


B.    God responded with a plan whereby the Israelites could be saved.


And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole:  and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.


1.     God’s plan involved two things:

a.     God’s grace

1)     A snake upon a pole

2)     The instructions that must be followed to live

b.    Man’s faith

1)     Man had to hear Moses words and believe.

2)     Man had to obey the instructions by looking upon the brazen serpent on the pole.

2.     Lesson:  God’s plan of salvation still involves grace and faith (Eph. 2:8).


For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves:  it is the gift of God.


a.     God’s grace

1)     A Savior upon a tree

a)     John 3:14


And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.


b)     John 12:32


And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.


2)     Instructions for salvation found in the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16-17).


For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ:  for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.  For therein is the right-eousness of God revealed from faith to faith:  as it is written, The just shall life by faith.


b.    Man’s faith

1)     We must hear the Word of God and believe (Rom. 10:17)


So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.


2)     That faith prompts us to obey the requirements of salvation given by God.

a)     Matthew 7:21; Hebrews 5:8-9; Rev. 22:14

b)     Believe (John 8:24

c)     Repent of sins (Luke 13:3)

d)    Confess the name of Christ (Rom. 10:9-10)

e)     Be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38)


V.          RESPITE (Num. 21:9)


And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.


A.   Those who obeyed the requirements of God found respite.  The text says:  and he lived.


B.    Question:  Did the Jews have to look upon the serpent of brass to live?  Absolutely!  Looking on the serpent stood between the afflicted and life.


C.   Lessons:

1.     Faith only would not have saved the Israelites and will not save today (James 2:24).


Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.


2.     Many living today would say that Moses believed in “snake salvation” because he asked them to look upon the serpent to live.  They accuse us of believing in “water salvation” because we believe a person must be baptized to be saved (Mark 16:16).

3.     The power to save was not in the brazen serpent.  The power was of God.  The serpent was God’s dividing line of faith.  It was the test of man’s faith.

4.     God still has a dividing line, a test of man’s faith in order for man to be saved from the affliction of sin.  It is the waters of baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; I Pet. 3:21).


He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved…




A.   Paul was correct when he wrote:  For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning… (Rom. 15:4).


B.    Sadly, so many are so steeped in their denominational error that they will not learn.


C.   My friends, God wants to save us just as He saved those Israelites bitten by the fiery serpents.

1.     He asked them to look upon the brazen serpent to live.

2.     He asks us to be baptized in water to receive the forgiveness of sins (Acts 22:16).


D.   All Israel did was to trust and obey.  That is all we must do as well.