The Serpent in the Desert – Gospel in Life

The Serpent in the Desert

Tim Keller |  November 24, 2002

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  • Atonement
  • Forgiveness
  • Salvation
Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:7-10, 14,15
RS 154-12

Numbers 21:4–9; John 3:7–10, 14–15

You know the symbol of a snake on a pole that’s used for healing? That came from an episode in Moses’ life. It’s a deep insight into the problem of spiritual sickness and the steps required to find healing. Let’s break it down.

1. The sickness

When the Israelites complained about the manna God provided in the desert, it showed a deep spiritual problem. Like a physical sickness, this spiritual issue made them unhappy, even when they had many blessings. This unhappiness is like the pain from a snake bite and can only be healed by God’s help.

2. The preps

To start the healing process, we often need a big problem that pushes us to seek God’s help and grow spiritually. Good friends can also help us through tough times and give us feedback on our spiritual journey. And to truly heal, we need to stop blaming others and admit that we often cause our own problems.

3. The treatment

God’s strange cure involved Moses making a bronze snake for people to look at. This symbol of harm became a source of healing. Jesus compared himself to this bronze snake, saying he would be lifted up to take on our sins and evil actions to save us. This shows that forgiveness always has a cost, and Jesus paid that cost for us.

4. The way to take the medicine

When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, he said we need a new birth, not just forgiveness. We are not just guilty, we’re also broken. Like the bronze snake, looking to Jesus can heal and transform us. This new birth and healing don’t come from our efforts, but through Jesus’ work and love. In Him, we find our true identity, value, and rescue.



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