Numbers 21:5-9. 5 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.” 6 Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 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. 8 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.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
Often we talk about faith in terms of the amount of faith that we have. “If only I had more faith.” “With enough faith you can do anything.” “I guess she just lacked the faith needed to have God act.” But is this how faith actually works? Is God most concerned about the amount of faith that we have or is he more concerned about the object of our faith?
Think about the Israelites in the wilderness in Numbers 21. Their faithless grumbling against God’s provision leads to fiery serpents entering the camp and biting the people. And then it says this – So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
So which of the Israelites had the most faith? Did those with greater faith receive a greater healing? No. Because it wasn’t about how well they looked, or how often they looked, or how long they looked. It was just IF they looked. Look at the bronze serpent and live.
1500 years later, Jesus would use this same story to describe saving faith in himself.
John 3:14-15. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
“Whoever believes in him enough may have eternal life.” NOPE.
“Whoever believes in him the most may have eternal life.” Still NOPE.
“Whoever believes in him.” PERIOD.
A.W. Tozer said that faith is like your eye. With it you see everything but it never sees itself. True faith is never focused on faith. Nor is faith a quality that we conjure up inside ourselves. Faith is looking away from the self, and focusing on Christ alone. Beholding him (2 Cor. 3:18). Fixing your eyes on him (Heb. 12:2).
So Jesus must be the object of our faith? Yes. But let’s take an even closer look at the story and at Christ. What exactly are we looking at on that pole? On the cross?
Moses was told to craft a bronze fiery serpent.
There’s only one other place in the Bible where we find fiery serpents, or seraphs (same word). In Isaiah 6 surrounding the throne of God seraphs cry out, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” The fiery serpents God sent to destroy the Israelites represent his holiness. God’s holiness must destroy sin. But how can God destroy sin without destroying us? So Moses made a bronze serpent. Not a gold serpent. Or even a silver serpent. Bronze, the metal of sinful humanity.
God’s holiness (fiery serpents) and man’s sinfulness (bronze) collided on that pole. God’s holiness demands that our sinfulness be destroyed. But here in the wilderness this weaving of God and man, holiness and sinfulness, became their salvation. It became life.
And so it was on the cross. Jesus, the holiness of God colliding with the sinfulness of man. Jesus, our bronze serpent. HE is the object of our faith. He took our sin and gave us his righteousness. He was bitten for us. He was raised up in death that we might be raised up in life.
Do you want to have more faith? Then look at Christ more and your faith less. Turn your eyes upon Jesus. See his holiness colliding with your sin on the cross. Keep looking. Never stop. Move your gaze from yourself to the grace displayed on that pole. Now your living by faith. Now “to live is Christ.”
What is the object of your faith? Is it Christ? Or is it your faith?
You in Christ
How can you trust in your union with Christ, his righteousness given to you, above all else?
Christ in you
How can you look at Christ today rather than your own faith?