Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey.
The people spoke against God and 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 miserable food.”
The LORD sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.
So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD and you; intercede with the LORD, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.”
And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived. (Numbers 21:4-9)
People tend to give up on God at the first sign of trouble. They praise God at the first hint of blessing. People can be very fickle with their affections. The Israelites had spent years in the wilderness. It was easy to complain about their condition. In fact, complaining is something that all humans everywhere are really good at. The students of a school will always complain about the food in the cafeteria. Soldiers complain about their chow and about the miserable rain, their tired feet, their lack of support, their shortage of ammunition. Workers stand around the water cooler and gripe about the boss and all the work piling up. The unemployed gripe about the lines at the unemployment office and about how hard it is to find work. How much easier it would be to just lie down and die.
The Israelites had that chance. They were unhappy with their diet. They asked Moses why he had brought them out to the wilderness just to die. So God sent snakes to bite them and kill them. They wanted to die? God would make it easy.
But he also gave them an easy way to stay alive. The bronze snake became a cure for the poison. All that chose to look at it could live through the snake bites. If someone was determined to just give up and die, it was easy enough. All he had to do was close his eyes and give up. But not giving up wasn’t all that hard, either. They just had to alter their perspective a little. Then they could find out that God really didn’t want to kill them in the wilderness. God is always near. He never abandons us. He won’t leave us without a solution.