The Brazen Serpent a Type of Christ
by Pastor Jim Rickard
2 Kings 18:4 He (Hezekiah) removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan (a piece of bronze).
John 3:14 “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.
The Bronze Serpent was a great typology of Christ and God’s provision for our salvation in 10 ways.
1. THE NEED
The people had sinned in two ways: they had spoken against God, and they had spoken against Moses. Because of this, they were dying. “The wages of sin is death” Rom. 6:23.
Here we have the two aspects of the Law of God: Behavior toward God and behavior toward one another. Because of sin, death is in the world and all are condemned (John 3:16-18). Every person born into this world has been bitten by the fiery serpent of sin and is destined to die.
2. GOD’S GRACE
God could have ignored his people’s plight, for they deserved to die, but in His love and grace He provided a remedy. The intercession of Moses in v. 7 reminds us of the prayer of Christ, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” Luke 23:34.
3. ANOTHER SERPENT
How strange that Moses should make another serpent when it was serpents that caused all the trouble to begin with! Were there not enough of them in the camp already? The fiery serpent represented sin and death that results from sin.
The Hebrew word for fiery is: óøˆNÜ = Saraph, which means burning, that is, (figuratively) poisonous (serpent); specifically a saraph or symbolical creature (from their copper color):—fiery (serpent), seraph.
The Hebrew word for Serpent is: Lç˜ðˆ Nachash = Serpent
This word is also used for angelic creatures called Seraphim in Isa 6:2 and 6:6. Seraphim are six winged angels who are the highest ranked angels known.
Here we see God using His angels in the affairs of man to bring about discipline as well as a reminder of where sin originated, i.e. Satan, the highest ranking angel of his time. But the serpent of brass pictures Christ, who became sin for us. 2 Cor. 5:21
2 Cor 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
The serpent was a reminder and emblem of the curse. The one who is the sinner’s Savior was sent in the likeness of sinful flesh, Rom 8:3. Brass is the metal that speaks of judgment, and on the cross, Christ bore our judgment for us. Note that the serpent was not effective in Moses’ hand, or on a shelf. It had to be “lifted up”—Christ had to be crucified. See John 3:14, 8:28, and 12:30-33.
A Standard implies a presence, protection, and aid in leading and directing God’s people in the execution of His righteous will and giving them comfort and peace in His service. Isa 11:12. Isa 11:12 “And He will lift up a standard for the nations, And assemble the banished ones of Israel, And will gather the dispersed of Judah, From the four corners of the earth.”
4. BY FAITH
The people had prayed, “Take away the serpents!” But God’s method was to overcome the sting of death by faith. “Look and live!” was the answer. It was not by ignoring the bites, beating the serpents, applying medicine, or trying to flee that the afflicted people were saved. Brass is harder than iron, or silver, or gold; it told of Christ’s mighty strength.
a. They were not told to manufacture some ointment as the means of healing their wounds.
b. They were not told to minister to others who were wounded and help each other out.
c. They were not told to fight the serpents.
d. They were not told to make an offering to the serpent on the pole.
e. They were not told to look at Moses.
f. They were not told to look at their wounds.
Salvation came through looking by faith to the uplifted serpent in the center of the camp. Isa. 45:22 w/ Eph 2:8-9. Isa 45:22 “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other.”
Note that the serpent was not connected with the tabernacle in any way. No amount of sacrifices could have saved the people from death.
The serpent was not lifted up in some hidden corner. It was lifted up in the center of the camp where all could see it and live. The brazen serpent was lifted up so those who were too weak to crawl to the pole could look and be healed. Christ is available today; He is not far away. John 12:32; Rom. 10:6-13. The remedy was available to all; “whosoever will, let him take” Rev. 22:17.
It cost dying sinners with Moses nothing to look and live. They may not have understood the how and why of it all (and who does understand salvation?) but they could believe and live! Rom 5:15-16, 6:23 Rom 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The one uplifted serpent sufficed for the whole camp. Christ alone is sufficient for our salvation; we need nothing more. The dying were not saved by looking at the serpent and then keeping the law, or looking and bringing a sacrifice, or looking and making promises to do better. They were saved by faith alone. Christ is sufficient to take care of all our needs for time and eternity. John 6:7-14; 2 Cor 12:9; Heb 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10
Rom 3:25 “Whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed”
8. IMMEDIATE HEALING
Salvation is not a process; it is an immediate miracle that takes place when the sinner looks to Christ by faith. Acts 16:31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
Christ in His death and resurrection does not save us “a little bit at a time.” He saves instantly, immediately, and completely. 1 Peter 2:24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. w/ Isa 53:5
9. ONE REMEDY FOR ALL
Thoughtless people say, “As there are many roads leading to Rome, so there are many roads to heaven, many ways to be saved!” There was only one way to be saved in the camp of Israel, and there is only one way today. John 14:6 and Acts 4:12. John 14:6 Jesus said* to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Unless a sinner looks to Christ by faith, he or she is lost forever.
10. DOUBLE ASSURANCE
How did the dying people know the remedy would work? First, they had the assurance of the Word of God. Col 2:2-3; Heb 3:14-4:2;10:22:11:1. God had promised that if anyone would look, he or she would live. Second, they could see what had happened in the lives of others. Rev 2:13 “and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.” Rev 3:14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:
God would give no special revelation, no special feeling; sinners had to depend on what God had promised. All of this seems so foolish to the people of the world, 1 Cor. 1:18-31. Imagine, looking at an uplifted serpent to be saved from death! People today scoff at the cross, while they try to kill the snakes and manufacture new anti-snake remedies.
Yet every remedy man has manufactured has failed! Reformation, education, better laws, religion—all have had their day. And still people are dying in sin. The only answer is the cross of Jesus Christ, the uplifted Savior.