What To Do When A Snake Bites You
By Leslie Vernick
Have you ever been bitten by a poisonous snake and felt its lethal effect coursing through your veins? I have never been snagged by the fangs of a rattlesnake but I've been attacked by other kinds of human snakes that inject their poison of hate, bitterness, discouragement, hopelessness, fear, and worry through my mind, my heart and my body.
“Please Lord,” I plead. “Can’t you take these people snakes away from my life?”
As I’m reading through the Old Testament right now, I’m seeing where the Israelites went through a rough patch in their long journey through the wilderness. They grew impatient with God. They couldn’t figure out what he was up to and began to grumble and complain. “Why Lord? Why this? Why me? And by the way, we hate eating this horrible manna!”
God responded by sending poisonous snakes and many Jews were bitten and died. Only then did Israel wake up, come to their senses and repent. “We’ve sinned against God and against you, Moses” they cried. “Ask God to take away the snakes.”
Just like you and me, the Israelites wanted God to remove the snakes. But shockingly, that’s not what God did. Instead he instructed Moses to make a bronze replica of the poisonous snake and attach it to a pole. He then told Moses, “All who were bitten would live and be healed if they simply looked up and gazed at the bronze snake” (Numbers 21:8,9).
The story sounds bizarre and it is difficult for us to understand fully. Despite Israel’s pleas, God didn’t remove the snakes. Instead he provided an antidote for the poisonous snake-bites but it would require a personal choice. God knew that the obvious problem (poisonous snakes) wasn’t the deeper problem for the Israelites. God knew that the true problem was Israel’s chronic lack of faith and trust in who God is and what God can do.
Therefore, in God’s wisdom, he didn’t remove the snakes among them, but did give the Israelites a way to live if they got bit. They could learn to trust in God and what he provided (look up at the pole when a snake bites you) or they could die in the wilderness. He knew that their problem with unbelief was crucial to their well-being and gave them a crisis situation in which to repeatedly practice looking up.
In the same way, God reminds me that he has provided the same remedy for you and me today. When you feel poisonous people snakes biting at your ankles, learn to immediately look up.
Jesus tells us in the New Testament that “as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.” (John 3:14.15)
When you choose to take your focus off your difficult circumstances, or the harsh words of another person, or your own pain and look up you will gain a new perspective. Your gaze is fixed on something bigger and greater than the pain you’re experiencing and by choosing to change your focus, you can find healing from its lethal poison.