Ever seen this symbol and wondered where it came from? Why would a snake on a stick be the symbol for healing? Do you realize that it goes back to what happened in the Bible? Some might wonder why a snake. Some might think of it as poisonous or dangerous compared to a healing source. It is interesting when we get to read stories like from today’s reading from Numbers 21 where we learn about the bronze serpent…
1When the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who lived in the Negeb, heard that Israel was coming by the way of Atharim, he fought against Israel, and took some of them captive. 2And Israel vowed a vow to the Lord and said, “If you will indeed give this people into my hand, then I will devote their cities to destruction.” 3And the Lord heeded the voice of Israel and gave over the Canaanites, and they devoted them and their cities to destruction. So the name of the place was called Hormah.
The Bronze Serpent
4From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. 5And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” 6Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.7And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
The Song of the Well
10And the people of Israel set out and camped in Oboth. 11And they set out from Oboth and camped at Iye-abarim, in the wilderness that is opposite Moab, toward the sunrise. 12From there they set out and camped in the Valley of Zered. 13From there they set out and camped on the other side of the Arnon, which is in the wilderness that extends from the border of the Amorites, for the Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites. 14Therefore it is said in the Book of the Wars of the Lord,
“Waheb in Suphah, and the valleys of the Arnon,
15 and the slope of the valleys
that extends to the seat of Ar,
and leans to the border of Moab.”
16And from there they continued to Beer; that is the well of which the Lord said to Moses, “Gather the people together, so that I may give them water.” 17Then Israel sang this song:
“Spring up, O well!—Sing to it!—
18 the well that the princes made,
that the nobles of the people dug,
with the scepter and with their staffs.”
And from the wilderness they went on to Mattanah, 19and from Mattanah to Nahaliel, and from Nahaliel to Bamoth, 20and from Bamoth to the valley lying in the region of Moab by the top of Pisgah that looks down on the desert.
King Sihon Defeated
21Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, saying, 22″Let me pass through your land. We will not turn aside into field or vineyard. We will not drink the water of a well. We will go by the King’s Highway until we have passed through your territory.” 23But Sihon would not allow Israel to pass through his territory. He gathered all his people together and went out against Israel to the wilderness and came to Jahaz and fought against Israel. 24And Israel defeated him with the edge of the sword and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as to the Ammonites, for the border of the Ammonites was strong. 25And Israel took all these cities, and Israel settled in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all its villages. 26For Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab and taken all his land out of his hand, as far as the Arnon. 27Therefore the ballad singers say,
“Come to Heshbon, let it be built;
let the city of Sihon be established.
28 For fire came out from Heshbon,
flame from the city of Sihon.
It devoured Ar of Moab,
and swallowed the heights of the Arnon.
29 Woe to you, O Moab!
You are undone, O people of Chemosh!
He has made his sons fugitives,
and his daughters captives,
to an Amorite king, Sihon.
30 So we overthrew them;
Heshbon, as far as Dibon, perished;
and we laid waste as far as Nophah;
fire spread as far as Medeba.”
King Og Defeated
31Thus Israel lived in the land of the Amorites. 32And Moses sent to spy out Jazer, and they captured its villages and dispossessed the Amorites who were there. 33Then they turned and went up by the way to Bashan. And Og the king of Bashan came out against them, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei. 34But the Lord said to Moses, “Do not fear him, for I have given him into your hand, and all his people, and his land. And you shall do to him as you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon.” 35So they defeated him and his sons and all his people, until he had no survivor left. And they possessed his land.
— from Numbers 21
It is interesting how impatient we can become. It is also interesting how we can put our focus on stuff instead of the creator. We need to be focusing on God and allowing Him to be the center in our lives. We need to invite Jesus into our hearts so that it is He who is helping us bear the fruit of the Spirit.
4From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. 5And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” 6Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.7And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to theLord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
Now we see why the snake on the staff points to healing. We need to trust in God! We need to trust in His plan and His purpose for our lives and that they are all good! In this we know that no matter what happens we can keep out hope and trust in God! Will we have troubles? Yes – in this world we will have troubles, but we can take hope because Jesus has overcome the world! Will we face trials of different kinds? Yes – We are to consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds because we know that the testing of our faith produces perseverance. So we are to let perseverance finish its work so that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
So we need to be more focused on the healer than the healing. We need to be more focused on the healer than the instruments and tools. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus rather than a stick and a snake.
Today’s devotional from the Global Impact bible on the theme of the Bible’s impact on scientific discovery with the topic of the symbol for healing. The international symbol for medicine depicts a snake on a staff. It tells us about its origins in Greek mythology and later in the stories of Moses and Jesus.
The Greek god Asclepius was the god of healing.
How it relates to Moses, we read about it in our reading from today in Numbers 21.
Since they could look at the bronze snake on the pole and be healed, it became the symbol of healing.
Jesus being crucified on the cross – the ultimate healing of mankind is the great story that this foreshadowed. So where does your help come from? Where do you turn and where do you look for help? where do you look for healing? where does your hope come from?
For those who prayed this for the first time or as a recommitment to God, I celebrate with the angels in heaven that you made the greatest decision of your life. Will you leave a comment so that I know and pray for you? Will you leave a comment or question so we can have a conversation? Look for a local church that is a Bible believing, Bible preaching church that will be able to come alongside you and help you in this journey called life.
I thank You for this new day and for all that will be in it. I thank You and praise You Lord for all that You were able to do in and through me this week. Thank You for being my comforter and my guide. Thank You for the wisdom necessary for every situation I face. Turning to You should be my first response … not my last response and so I ask Lord that Your Spirit will prompt me and direct me so that in and through all that I think, say, and do that You will receive the praise, the honor, and the glory in Jesus’ name. Amen.