My baby boy was sick with a stomach bug yesterday, so I went to church at my kitchen table today. I've been working on reading the Bible through chronologically this year. One Year Bible lists out exactly what you need to read each day in order to achieve this illustrious goal. Of course, I miss days and get behind, so I was playing catch-up this morning. I read a story today that's never really jumped out at me before.
The heading is The Snake of Fiery Copper, and it's Numbers 21:4-9, if you're interested. The basic gist of it is that the Israelites are traveling through the desert with Moses, and they're complaining again. It's not even all that original. It's the same old "Why did God bring us out of Egypt to kill us in the desert?" deal. As frequently as I've read it throughout this book of the Bible, these guys are really starting to sound like whiners. I guess the whole nomadic traveler thing would get old, but it seems to me that freedom to roam the desert is better than slavery and building pyramids or whatever.
God's punishment for the Israelites' distrust was interesting this time. He just lets loose some poisonous snakes among them to kill some folks. If something like that happened today, we'd explain it away with science somehow. The Israelites? They know what's up. The immediately ask Moses to pray for God to take the snakes away.
Did he? No. God told Moses to make a snake and run it up a flagpole. If someone got bit by one of these snakes, then came and looked at the snake flag, they'd live.
At first, I thought, "Why didn't God just zap all the snakes gone again? He put them there in the first place!" That's probably close to what they were thinking, too. "What's the deal with this flag, God?" But God's way is not our way. What we think is the right path or the best solution to our problems isn't always. Sometimes, okay usually, God has a much better plan than us. Man, I need to remember this. Daily.
Ultimately, why the flag? My opinion is that these complainers needed a lesson in trust. If they trusted God enough to drag themselves out to look at a flag after being bitten by a poisonous snake, they were absolved of sin. They'd learned their lesson.