This week’s passage covers a lot of ground. We have some talk about the water of cleansing made from the ashes of a red heifer, we have the death of Miriam at Kadesh and Aaron at Mt. Hor, and we have Moses’ disobedience against Adonai by striking the rock twice to produce water. Then when Beni Yisrael tried to take a short cut and pass through the country of Edom, they were turned back and had to trek the long way back through the wilderness. This could have been an opportunity to enrich Edom, to bless the descendants of Esau and provide for Israel, but the Edomites refused. Does that sound familiar?

[Read Numbers 21:1-9][1]

(Vs. 1-3) Adonai is trying to train His people to trust Him and fight with His strength. Here we have a great example. The king of Arad attacks and kidnaps people, the people cry out to Adonai for His agreement to go after them, Adonai agrees and Beni Yisrael wins the battle. Does it sound like someone else we’ve studied? Remember, this was David’s pattern.

(Vs. 4-5) Beni Yisrael found themselves having to turn back into the wilderness. What do we do when we feel that Adonai is leading us around in circles? This is the classic example of a defeat on the heels of victory. They were “flushed with victory, their confidence was now in themselves. They forgot that their victory over the army of Arad was a victory granted to them by [Adonai].”[2] How often do we get impatient at Adonai’s work in us? Once again Beni Yisrael’s impatience grew into ingratitude, which grew into grumbling.

(Vs. 6-9) Read carefully; who sent the snakes? And in their confession, which was a great sign by the way, what did the people ask for? Did Adonai give them what they asked for? But did He give them an answer to their request? We see here a primary way of bringing the people to independence through dependence on Him. Adonai provides a solution to the snakes but never takes them away. For all we know these snakes were with them for the rest of their journey. “By the initiative of God, the curse becomes the basis for salvation.”[3] What was the only condition for Beni Yisrael to receive this healing? This also leads us to the most famous and yet most misused verse in the Bible.

[Read John 3:14-21]

(Vs 14-15) “Just as” or “In the same way as” Moses lifted the cursed serpent on a tree so also the Son of Man became a curse (Gal 3:13-14) and was lifted up on a tree. This statement of Yeshua was quoted many times as John recounts. (John 8:28-29 & 12:30-34) Just as all who looked with belief upon the serpent on the tree were given physical life, so also all who look with belief upon the Son of Man on the tree shall be given eternal life.

(Vs. 16) And “for so” or rather “in this way” God loved the whole world when he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes or trusts in Him will not perish but have everlasting life! Did Adonai remove sin from the world when Yeshua died on the tree? Is Adonai’s love unconditional? Why or why not?

(Vs. 17-18) What is the good news based upon this verse? We who have trusted in Adonai’s salvation are no longer condemned! There is no condemnation (Rom. 8:1) for those who have trusted in Adonai’s provision, but what about those who have not trusted? Yeshua did not bring condemnation, but rather we are condemned already, we have already sinned, erred, and walked our own way. “We all like sheep have gone astray!” (Is. 53:6) Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived said, “Surely there is not a righteous person on earth who does what is good and doesn’t sin.” (Ecc. 7:20)

(Vs. 19-21) So why do people still reject God and the provision that He has made? Because God is not just love, but is also light. And people do not want to be told what that can and cannot do. It is true rebellion. I remember asking someone why they were not married even though they lived as though they were. The answer was that they did not feel that they needed anyone’s permission to be in a committed relationship. This is truer than they realized. When we go through a marriage ceremony we are effectually asking Adonai for His permission and blessing to be joined in covenant to another of His children.

So what should our response be? I want to look at 2 passages: Firstly [Matt. 6:9-13] where Yeshua instructs us to petition Adonai to not lead us into hard testing by the evil one. When we think that we can stand against temptation in our own strength (1 Cor. 10:12) we are walking in pride. When we are petitioning Adonai to not lead us into hard testing, we are acknowledging our weakness, and basically saying, “Adonai, you and I both know that if I am tested in this way, I will fail. Please don’t test me in this area.” “Thus the Lord’s model prayer ends with a petition that, while implicitly recognizing our own helplessness before the devil, whom [Yeshua] alone could vanquish, [absolutely] delights to trust the heavenly Father for deliverance from the devil’s strengths and wiles.”[4]

In the second passage, [2 Cor. 12:6-10] Paul is showing that a “thorn in the flesh/a messenger of Satan” was tormenting him so that he would not get conceited and proud. He had asked Adonai three times for this demonic attack to stop, and what had Adonai answered? “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Jacob says it this way, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect work, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from the Tree Of Life Version (TLV), 2014.

[2] Ronald Allen, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Rev. Ed., Vol 2, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2008. Pg. 291-296.

[3] Ibid, Pg. 296.

[4] D. A. Carson, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Rev. Ed., Vol 9, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2010. Pg. 208.