Bible reading for May 12.
"So 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." (Numbers 21:9)
TRAVELS AND HEALING. The book of Numbers covers about forty years' time, but we are only given the high and low points. Lists are given of the various places they camped. The nation is preparing to move toward the promised land. There is another occasion of complaining and a judgment of poisonous serpents (called "fiery" probably for their painful bite). God grants healing through looking at an uplifted bronze serpent. There was "life in a look," so to speak, and nothing else needed to be done. This foreshadows our Savior (John 3:14-15), to whom we look in faith for healing from sin and death. Like the serpent, a curse, was lifted up for all to see, so Jesus publicly became a curse on our behalf (Gal 3:13) that we might look to him, trust him, and believe the gospel message of forgiveness. Israel has grown in faith, however, and we see them singing instead of complaining about water: "Spring up, O well! - Sing to it!" (Num 21:17). God's wilderness trials of the nation have brought improvement.
WARFARE. Three early battles, and three victories, are described -- over the Canaanite king of Arad, over Sihon the Amorite king, and over Og the king of Bashan. All of these conflicts Israel sought to bypass, but they fought when attacked. They seemed to be careful to dispossess only the lands that the Lord gave to them. The promised land at that time was an amalgamation of independent city states of various ethnicities: Canaanites, Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, and Ammonites. More on this to come.
"Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy." (Psalm 61:2-3)
WARFARE, AGAIN. Battles and wars are a frequent topic in the Bible. It's hard for us who live in a nation that has known peace within our borders for over a century to understand how common warfare was in the ancient world (and in so many places still today). The land of Israel was a narrow, New Jersey-sized land bridge between the north (Asian powers, such as Syria, Assyria, and Babylon) and the south (African empires of Egypt and Ethiopia). In addition, sea peoples from the west (Philistines) and desert raiders from the east (Midianites) exerted pressure. Also, peace was always tenuous with Moab and Edom to the south and east. War was an annual occurrence (2 Samuel 11:1), and boundaries moved, depending on who won the most recent battle. Since Israel had no standing army, and livestock and crops needed protection, all young men had to be ready to go into battle at a moment's notice. King David lived with a continual awareness of threats to their national security. His psalms that relate to foreign enemies (outside their borders) reveal that David trusts God to give success in battle and so preserve their nation.
MY TAKEAWAY. We are reminded again and again that the Christian life will always involve struggle, fighting against sin, and resisting spiritual forces. Jonathan Edwards wrote, "God has appointed this whole life to be all as a race or a battle; the state of rest, wherein we shall be so out of danger as to have no need of watching and fighting, is for another world."
Image credit: Photo by Scott Umstattd (on Unsplash) from a Civil War reenactment in Andersonville, Georgia. Andersonville is the home of the National Prisoner of War Museum.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.