And as Moses - Jesus proceeds in this and the following verses to state the reason why he came into the world and, in order to this, he illustrates His design, and the efficacy of his coming, by a reference to the case of the brass serpent, recorded in Numbers 21:8-9. The people were bitten by flying fiery serpents. There was no cure for the bite. Moses was directed to make an image of the serpent, and place it in sight of the people, that they might look on it and be healed. There is no evidence that this was intended to be a type of the Messiah, but it is used by Jesus as strikingly illustrating his work. Men are sinners. There is no cure by human means for the maladies of the soul; and as the people who were bitten might look on the image of the serpent and be healed, so may sinners look to the Saviour and be cured of the moral maladies of our nature.
Lifted up - Erected on a pole. Placed on high, So that it might be seen by the people.
The serpent - The image of a serpent made of brass.
In the wilderness - Near the land of Edom. In the desert and desolate country to the south of Mount Hor, Numbers 21:4.
Even so - In a similar manner and with a similar design. He here refers, doubtless, to his own death. Compare John 12:32; John 8:28. The points of resemblance between his being lifted up and that of the brass serpent seem to be these:
1.In each case those who are to be benefited can he aided in no other way. The bite of the serpent was deadly, and could be healed only by looking on the brass serpent; and sin is deadly in its nature, and can be removed only by looking on the cross.
2.The mode of their being lifted up. The brass serpent was in the sight of the people. So Jesus was exalted from the earth raised on a tree or cross.
3.The design was similar. The one was to save the life, the other the soul; the one to save from temporal, the other from eternal death.
4.The manner of the cure was similar. The people of Israel were to look on the serpent and be healed, and so sinners are to look on the Lord Jesus that they may be saved.
The Son of man - The Messiah.
As Moses lifted up - He shows the reason why he descended from heaven, that he might be lifted up, i.e. crucified, for the salvation of man. kind, and be, by the appointment of God, as certain a remedy for sinful souls as the brazen serpent elevated on a pole, Numbers 21:9, was for the bodies of the Israelites, which had been bitten by the fiery serpents in the wilderness. It does not appear to me that the brazen serpent was ever intended to be considered as a type of Christ. It is possible to draw likenesses and resemblances out of any thing; but, in such matters as these, we should take heed that we go no farther than we can say, Thus it is written. Among the Jews, the brazen serpent was considered a type of the resurrection - through it the dying lived; and so, by the voice of God, they that were dead shall be raised to life. As the serpent was raised up, so shall Christ be lifted up: as they who were stung by the fiery serpents were restored by looking up to the brazen serpent, so those who are infected with and dying through sin are healed and saved, by looking up to and believing in Christ crucified. These are all the analogies which we can legitimately trace between the lifting up of the brazen serpent, and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The lifting up of the Son of man may refer to his mediatorial office at the right hand of God. See the note on Numbers 21:9.
The Israelites were terrified, and humbled because of the serpents, and confessed their sin in murmuring. Moses was directed to erect the brazen serpent upon a pole, and if those who were bitten looked upon that they should be healed. Here the Israelites were required to do something. They must look upon the brazen serpent if they would live. Many had died by the bite of the serpents. When Moses raised the serpent upon the pole, some had no faith that merely looking at that would heal them, and they died. Mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, were all anxiously engaged in helping their suffering, dying relatives and friends, to fix their languid eyes upon the serpent. If they could only once look while fainting and dying, they revived and were healed of all the effects of their poisonous wounds. There was no virtue in the serpent of brass to cause such a change immediately in those who looked upon it. The healing virtue received by their looking upon the serpent was derived from God alone. He chose in his wisdom this manner to display his power. It was the faith of the people in the provision made which was acceptable to God. By this simple means the people were made sensible that God had permitted these serpents to afflict them, because of their murmurings, and lack of faith in him. If they would obey God they had no reason to fear, for he would be their friend, and preserve them from dangers to which they were continually exposed in the wilderness. 4aSG 42.1
The brazen serpent, lifted upon a pole, illustrates the Son of God, who was to die upon the cross. The people who are suffering from the effects of sin can find hope and salvation alone in the provision God has made. As the Israelites saved their lives by looking upon the brazen serpent, so sinners can look to Christ and live. Unlike the brazen serpent, he has virtue in himself and power to heal the suffering, repenting, believing sinner. Christ says of himself, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” 4aSG 42.2
*****Read in context »
By saying, “Must we fetch you water out of this rock?” Moses virtually said to the people that they were correct in believing that he himself was doing the mighty works that had been done in their behalf. This made it necessary for God to prove to Israel that his admission was not founded on fact.... To dispel forever from the minds of the Israelites the idea that a man was leading them, God found it necessary to allow their leader to die before they entered the land of Canaan (Manuscript 69, 1912). 1BC 1116.1Read in context »
Here is another case Christ presented before Nicodemus—the serpent that was lifted up in the wilderness—and declared, “Even so must the Son of man be lifted up” (John 3:14). And if He is lifted up, He will draw all men unto Him, “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (Verse 15). Now just look at that brazen serpent. The children of Israel had not realized that God had been keeping them by His angels sent to be their help and their protection. The people had not been destroyed by the serpents in their long travels through the wilderness. They had been an ungrateful people. FW 69.1Read in context »
The Lord Jesus had protected the children of Israel from the venomous serpents in the wilderness, but this part of their history they did not know. Angels from heaven had accompanied them, and in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night Christ had been their protection through all their journeying. But they became selfish and discontented, and in order that they might not forget His great care over them, the Lord gave them a bitter lesson. He permitted them to be bitten by the fiery serpents, yet in His great mercy He did not leave them to perish. Moses was bidden to lift the brazen serpent on the pole, and make the proclamation that whosoever should look upon it should live. And all who looked, did live. They recovered health at once.... What a strange symbol of Christ was that likeness of the serpents which stung them. This symbol was lifted on a pole, and they were to look to it, and be healed. So Jesus was made in the likeness of sinful flesh. He came as the sin-bearer.... SD 222.2
The same healing, life-giving message is now sounding. It points to the uplifted Saviour upon the shameful tree. Those who have been bitten by that old serpent, the devil, are bidden to look and live.... Look alone to Jesus as your righteousness and your sacrifice. As you are justified by faith, the deadly sting of the serpent will be healed.6Letter 55, 1895. SD 222.3
Without the cross, man could have no union with the Father. On it depends our every hope. From it shines the light of the Saviour's love; and when at the foot of the cross the sinner looks up to the One who died to save him, he may rejoice with fulness of joy; for his sins are pardoned. Kneeling in faith at the cross, he has reached the highest place to which man can attain.7The Acts of the Apostles, 209, 210. SD 222.4Read in context »
Are you expecting that your merit will recommend you to the favor of God, and that you must be free from sin before you trust his power to save? If this is the struggle going on in your mind, I fear you will gain no strength, and will finally become discouraged. As the brazen serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, so was Christ lifted up to draw all men unto Him. All who looked upon that serpent, the means that God had provided, were healed; so in our sinfulness, in our great need, we must “look and live.” 3SM 149.3Read in context »