At mount Hor, Moses had seen his brother Aaron die, and now, all alone, he has to bear anew the contentions of the people; yet he was not alone, his God was with him. The people were getting weary of tent life, and of the inconveniences of perpetually moving, but they forgot their many mercies, and the great deliverances which the Lord had wrought for them. Fretting, groaning, and complaining are very easy, but they are ungrateful, unholy, and useless habits.
What a weariness it is to read this repetition of the stale complaint! It is always the same old and cruel slander; but each time there is more sin in it, because it is committed against a longer experience of the divine faithfulness. How wretched a thing is discontent—it rails at the bread of heaven, and despises the clear crystal leaping from the rock.
They acted like serpents in hissing at Moses, and now serpents are sent to punish them. God has many ways of chastising sinners. He who made Moses rod a serpent, can also use a serpent as his rod to smite Israel. He will sting those who sting his servants.
Admirable meekness. He prays at once for the aggravating people who had been so basely libelling him. They had but to say “pray,” and Moses prayed. O! for the like holy readiness to return good for evil.
It was “like curing like,” an uplifted serpent heals the mischief wrought by a serpent: by man came death, by man came also the resurrection from the dead. The serpent on the pole was, as it were, executed by hanging on a tree, and so was the more lively type of the Crucified One, who was made a curse for us. A look was demanded of all who were bitten; there was one command for princes and paupers; they must all look, and look in one direction, for no other remedy was provided. It was the duty of Moses to lift up the serpent, but he could do no more, he had no mystic power in his own person to heal the wounded: even thus, ministers are to preach Christ Jesus to us, but they cannot save us, they are as weak as other men in such matters. Our Lord applied to himself the incident before us, we will read his words in—
We have but to look to Jesus, and whoever we may be, we shall find immediate deliverance from all our sins. One glance of faith brings a present salvation. This gospel is for all mankind, and no man of woman born need hesitate to trust his soul’s eternal interests in the hands of the Son of God. Whoever trusts him is and shall be saved.
So did the Hebrew prophet raise
The brazen serpent high;
The wounded felt immediate ease,
The camp forbore to die.
“Look upward in the dying hour,
And live,” the prophet cries:
But Christ performs a nobler cure
When faith lifts up her eyes.