July 12, 2019

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Numbers 21:1–20

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Arad Destroyed

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.

The Song of the Well

10 And the people of Israel set out and camped in Oboth. 11 And they set out from Oboth and camped at Iye-abarim, in the wilderness that is opposite Moab, toward the sunrise. 12 From there they set out and camped in the Valley of Zered. 13 From there they set out and camped on the other side of the Arnon, which is in the wilderness that extends from the border of the Amorites, for the Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites. 14 Therefore it is said in the Book of the Wars of the LORD,

  “Waheb in Suphah, and the valleys of the Arnon,
15   and the slope of the valleys
  that extends to the seat of Ar,
  and leans to the border of Moab.”

16 And from there they continued to Beer;4 that is the well of which the LORD said to Moses, “Gather the people together, so that I may give them water.” 17 Then Israel sang this song:

  “Spring up, O well!—Sing to it!—
18   the well that the princes made,
  that the nobles of the people dug,
  with the scepter and with their staffs.”

And from the wilderness they went on to Mattanah, 19 and from Mattanah to Nahaliel, and from Nahaliel to Bamoth, 20 and from Bamoth to the valley lying in the region of Moab by the top of Pisgah that looks down on the desert.5


[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
[4] 21:16 Beer means well
[5] 21:20 Or Jeshimon

Please Turn to Page . . .

Key Verse | Numbers 21:7

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.

Bio | Sarah Jannusch

Good morning, y'all! My name is Sarah!

I was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but moved to Texas six years ago to attend Baylor University (Sic 'em Bears). I graduated with a degree in nursing, and now I am a registered nurse at UTSW on a Neuro/Med-Surg floor.

I also serve at Watermark Urgent Care as a nurse/pastoral care volunteer! Sharing what I've learned about Jesus pumps me up, and I really hope y'all enjoy this devotional as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Central Truth

The Lord will always be our deliverer, but we must still be willing to trust His plan and timing in our lives.

Devotional | Numbers 21:1–20

Have you ever felt like God and you were NOT on the same page? When that has happened, was it because God wasn't on YOUR page? I'm just guessing that I'm not the only one who's ever felt that...

Have you ever felt like God and you were NOT on the same page? When that has happened, was it because God wasn't on YOUR page? I'm just guessing that I'm not the only one who's ever felt that way—especially since the Israelites grumbled as if God forgot "the plan."

How quickly did the Israelites seem to forget that the Lord delivered them from the Canaanites? (Numbers 21:3) It's actually the very next verses that state, ". . . And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses . . . ." (Numbers 21:4-5). All was going well until there wasn't enough water, and the food wasn't good enough. On a more relatable level, you may be thinking that work is harder than usual, or there is a little bit of conflict with someone in your life, or (insert your struggle here).

Sometimes it gets worse, and you're bitten by a venomous snake, or you lose your job, or you say things you regret, or your car breaks down. BUT when we pray to the Lord and fix our eyes on His ways, He says we will live!

I am so thankful that the Lord has a plan to save us. His plan is infinitely better than mine, and I find rest in the fact that even when I feel like God and I aren't on the same page, His plan means that I will have life with Him forever because I have trusted in His Son. And I have been following Him long enough to know that aligning my plans with His brings me benefits of that life now.

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Discussion Questions

1. When have you caught yourself feeling impatient with God? Did you trust He had a plan in your situation?

2. How do you respond when God's plan is different than what you had in mind?

3. Do you believe that the Lord always wants you to have life? Or do you believe He is the cause of your sufferings?

12 Comments available

Jay Caruso 10 months ago

Thank you Sarah. Congratulations on being a Baylor grad. The ungratefulness in here is crazy. Our lord is awesome and powerful-full of grace as well as faithful when deserving.

Scott Jones 11 months ago

Many years ago, as new Christians, Patti and I taught on this passage in the children’s Sunday school. My creative wife came up with a great idea. We mounted a toy snake on a crossbar on a pole and spray painted it gold (this was in the dark ages before bronze became a fashionable color). At the end of the lesson, we lifted the snake off and were left with - a cross! God did not merely cure Israel’s immediate need for healing, but He gave them a picture of how He would cure humanity’s greatest need one day through Jesus.

Scott Jones 11 months ago

Q2: When my plan is not God’s plan, my go to is frustration and anger. While God has allowed me to take a lot of ground over the years, it is still a daily struggle to submit to Him daily in humility and dependence.

Michael Scaman 11 months ago

Set free by God from Egypt but some Jews taken captive by Canaanites and they vow to destroy the captors devoting them to destruction and win a fight against them.

Not a famous account but this makes a good prelude to the close of the books of Moses and moving to Joshua where the promised land would be conquered (and devoted to destruction).

greg jones 11 months ago

Sarah, “Ever felt like God and you were not on the same page?”

Yes. Thank you for stating the question in a way that allows someone to admit that. There should be a healthy ebb and flow of feeling like, and, not feeling like, we are on the same page as God. Consider:

God:Moses I want you to talk to Pharaoh. Moses:Wrong guy God. God:I’m going to destroy these people and make a nation from you. Moses:God don’t do that because… God:Moses you struck the rock, you won’t enter the promised land. Moses:Crickets.

Moses doesn’t say much. When he speaks Pharaohs and nations don’t always listen, but God does.

Silent prayer while striking the rock… Moses:God, quite this rage. God:Job well done faithful servant. Moses:Same page God:Same page. Ebb and flow, crickets…

Sue Bohlin 11 months ago

Thank you, Sarah, welcome to Texas! Do you miss cheese curds?

The story of the fiery snakes and bronze serpent is timely for our community group as we are fervently praying for the salvation of a stubborn, arrogant brother in his last stage of cancer. God has multiple ways of turning to Him to be saved, this one as simple as deciding to simply look at a serpent on a pole in faith. Even if it’s just 5% faith and 95% fear and skepticism, the power to save rests in God, not the amount of faith in the one needing to be saved. Surely those rebellious, ungrateful Israelites had quite the mixture of faith/fear among the rabble! As a wise friend once advised, “Just crack the door. God will do the rest.”

Hope Harris 11 months ago

The bronze serpent is another symbolic sign that points me to Jesus.John 3:14-15. Bible commentator, David Guzik that the snake represents evil and the bronze metal represents judgement. Spurgeon upon hearing a message on this passage of the snakes received Christ.Later he saw the relationship of Isaiah 45:22-23 to this section on the snake.

Jesus thank you for dying on the cross for my sin and triumphing over sin. Sin and death have no power over you.

Lindsey Driscoll 11 months ago

We see this cycle of sin with the Israelites. Sin, impatience with God (21:4). Consequences for sin = death and God sent snakes (21:6). Israel confesses their sin, and asks for healing from the Lord (21:7). The lord provides healing and forgiveness only when Israel looks to him, to the bronze snake he provided. (21:8-9). Praise be to God that he provided Christ as our means of forgiveness for sins and healing when we look to him and recognize that it’s only by his blood we are healed.

Hugh Stephenson 11 months ago

“Pisgah” is Mount Nebo. I was there awhile ago. You can look west across the barren desert wilderness and see the Promised Land of the green and fertile Jordan River valley. Isnt that just like God? After a long journey through the wilderness and many battles in the desert He takes us to the mountain top and reminds us of His great promise.

See the view https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=view+from+mt+nebo&id=46438CA75DF212A312AB890DE753BBAC1ACFC93C&FORM=IQFRBA

Hugh Stephenson 11 months ago

I love this old saying from the Wise Mouse -

“I don’t want any cheese. I just want out of the trap.”

I love that because it speaks right to me in the 5 verses on the bronze snake. First I note it’s not just snakes but FIERY snakes. Decades of wandering capped off by fiery snakes. Just get me out of this trap!! You can have the cheese!!.

There have been seasons in my life when I empathized.

I was amazed when I was taught that Jesus referred to exactly this passage in John 3:14-15 before the famous John 3:16.

Then a friend pointed out the bronze snake is Caduceus - the symbol for physicians. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caduceus

Wiersbe notes life is a school, gymnasium and a battlefied. Courage in the battle must be followed by endurance in the race.

In fear and fatigue I forget the promise

Michael Scaman 11 months ago

Israel complained too often about food and water. Now a judgement of snakes. A deadly crisis. Unexpected help came in the form of the bronze dead snake on a pole you need to look to and live.

Jesus tells Nicodemus ‘the Son of Man’ is like that. Unexpected. The coming Messiah was to crush the head of the serpent, but it was the will of the Lord to crush the one titled ‘the Son of Man’ and making him like a dead snake on a pole to look to and live. He would become sin

Jesus would be a better bronze serpent for a bigger and weightier crisis involving the world. Jesus explained that this done because “God so loved the world” then swaps out the title ‘Son of Man’ for yet another title - that he gave ‘His only Son’"

A lot to land on Nicodemus at once

Michael Scaman 11 months ago

Grumblings over no water is now replaced with 'the song of the well." Not a famous account. But a refreshing song of thankfulness.

‘The song of the well’ would be a thousand times less familiar story to me than the bronze serpent. I wonder if it’s here as an assurance God is providing. The same God who led them though a dry and thirsty wilderness is still providing (on His terms and in His time).

God still provided

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