Sunday, August 12, 2012

As Many As Should Look...Should Live!

"And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died...And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived." (Numbers 21:6,8-9)

In the Bible we find one of the greatest stories of travel ever. As commanded by the Lord, Moses leads the children of Israel out from their bondage to the Egyptians to a land of promised freedom. At one point in their journey, the people began to whine to Moses asking him why God had lead them out of Egypt and why they had to do such a hard task. In response, the Lord sent "fiery, flying serpents" to them. Many of the people were bitten and suffered greatly because of this added trial. But He didn't leave them helpless. He commanded the prophet Moses to make a symbol--a brass serpent--that they could look to and receive the promised blessing of a being healed.

Unfortunately, this is pretty much the extent to which the Old Testament teaches about this curious experience. Thankfully for us, we have been blessed with a second witness, the Book of Mormon, which provides additional insight and information concerning this event. There are numerous places in the Book of Mormon that teach us about this. The interesting thing is that they only briefly describe the actual events, but rather focus on how it actually applies to us!

In the first teaching of the brass serpent in the Book of Mormon, we do learn an important thing. It says "and the Lord straitened them because of their iniquity. He sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished." How often does this happen to us? The Lord has given us all hardships and trials that we have to endure through. He gives us hard things in our life to help, but He always prepares a way for us to be healed!

What is that way? How is it that we are able to be healed? The answer is explained in some of the other accounts of the people of Israel with the brass serpent. In the book of Alma we read that this brass serpent was symbolic. It did heal them, but it served a greater purpose and as a greater reminder than simply a snake on a stick. Alma, quoting the words of Zenock, teaches us that this serpent was a representation of the Savior, Jesus Christ. He says, "Behold, [Jesus Christ] was spoken of by Moses; yea, and behold a type was raised up in the wilderness, that whosoever would look upon it might live. And many did look and live. But few understood the meaning of those things". Even among the people who experienced this great miracle, many didn't understand that it was a type, or symbol, of what would happen to Jesus Christ and how that related to them and how it now relates to us.

Jesus Christ understood well His role in our salvation. He understood that Moses raising the serpent to the Israelites was symbolic of what would happen to Him. Early in the ministry of Jesus Christ, He had an encounter with Nicodemus, one of the religious leaders of Jerusalem, and teaches His many things. As their conversation progresses, Christ teaches Nicodemus of the importance of a Savior and gives a similar promise as was given to Moses and the children of Israel. "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life."

To the Israelites was given the promise that is they looked at the serpent that had been lifted up for them to see, they would be healed of the bites they had incurred. They healing promised to them was physical. Because Christ was lifted up on a cross, we too can experience a healing. The healing that comes through Christ is more valuable than a physical healing; He provides a spiritual healing! We are bitten by the "fiery serpent", the devil. His bite is also a deadly bite, but it is far more serious that the venomous bite on a snake. His bite has the potential to cause a spiritual death and a permanent separation from God, if we don't take care of it! Just as with the Israelites, we can be healed of these bites by looking to the One that God has raised up for us!

But we can't just glance once and expect to be healed. No, we must fasten our eyes to Him. We cannot deviate our focus or the poison of sin and the devil will set back in. As soon as we take our eyes off of our perfect Example, we falter. Peter, one of the Savior's beloved friends teaches this to us by one of his own experiences.

After witnessing one of the greatest miracles that Christ performed--feeding five thousand people with only five loaves of bread and two fishes--Peter and the rest of the Apostles leave Christ behind and set sail to the other side of the nearby sea. On their voyage a terrible storm arises, threatening their destruction. Seeing their distress, the Master performs yet another miracle by walking on the water out towards them. As they see Him approaching, they are frightened, not knowing if it is a ghost.

When they discover that it is their Friend, Peter calls out asking the Lord to invite him to walk on the water as well. "And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"

As Peter exercised his faith in the Savior and focused his attention on Him, he was able to experience a miracle in his own life and walk on water. But as soon as he looked around and diverted his attention, he began to sink into the sea. So it is with us. As we focus our attention on the Savior, regardless of what is happening around us and what was happening when we first caught glimpse of Him, we will experience miracles in our own lives. As we look to Christ, whom the brass serpent raised by Moses represented, we will experience things we never imagined possible.

One of the great Book of Mormon prophets, Nephi, put it simply when he said "And as many as should look upon that serpent should live, even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit, might live, even unto that life which is eternal."

God gives us hard things in our lives so that we can learn to put our faith in Him and trust in Him. All we have to do is look to His Son, and we will live! Christ was lifted up, just like the serpent in the wilderness so that we can be purified and saved. It really is simple! All we have to do is look and not divert our attention to Him and the promise will be fulfilled that we will be saved! Just as Peter when he boldly walked on the water with the Savior, we too will be able to avoid the dangers and swells of the waters of sin and will be able to come to the Savior as Moroni teaches if we but focus on Him! When our focus shifts, we begin to sink into the water and we are only able to overcome by turning out attention back to the Savior.

He is our Savior! He loves us! He loves you! He knows you and loves you and wants you to look to Him and live! I testify that He is the Son of God and that only through Him we are able to be saved. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.


  1. Yet another excellent post. So often, many of us become so emboldened in our own willpower and talents and blessings that we think we can just go off on our own and everything will be fine.

    For instance, I have been going through a very, very difficult time in my own life. I fasted and prayed on Friday, and things seem to be getting a bit better. But if I were to take that bit of encouragement and go "That's cool, God, I've got this from here on out!", I would surely fail very hard and very fast. We are supposed to lean on Him during the tough times. If not for trials in life, we would never grow to who God wants us to be.

  2. That is so true! Thank you so much for sharing that Eric! I always love hearing your testimony and experiences! :)