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Know God in a Year #47 Symbolism of the Serpent

In Jesus’ presence Nicodemus feels his need of change. The cloud lifts from his mind and he begins to understand Ezekiel’s promise that God gifts the new heart. He had never understood that the most meticulous obedience is worthless without a love relationship to God. He had read all the scriptures with a righteously closed mind.*

Jesus helps him with symbolism familiar to him, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up…”**

Nicodemus knows Israel’s history, that in breaking faith with God, the Israelites had forfeited God’s protection and were bitten by the serpents that lived in the wilderness.

Many were dying. So God had Moses make a brass serpent, and lift it high on two cross pieces of wood. All they had to do was acknowledge why they were dying, look at the cause, and acknowledge God’s provision for them. If they looked, they lived.

They knew there was no power in the serpent; it was a symbol of God’s enemy who had ruined His creation, but also a symbol of God’s provision–Messiah would come and die requiring only a look of faith.

Nicodemus gets it. Jesus is telling him that He is the Messiah and will die, becoming the redemption-offering for separation from God, to conquer death. By absorbing the serpent’s venom and dying, he defeats the destroyer. He can offer us the choice of healing and life.

Obedience doesn’t save. Even faith doesn’t save–but faith is the necessary link, “the look” or choice, the hand reaching to accept the gift of life offered.

John 3:10-15   *Psalm 51:10, Isaiah 64:6, Ezekiel 36:26-27   **Numbers 21:4-8

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