Bible Workbench: Lent 4: March 22, 2009

From a reader:

Numbers 21:4-9
Moses in the Wilderness

“Using whatever materials are at hand— art supplies, stuff in the kitchen drawer, odds and ends on your desk— create a bronze serpent pole on your kitchen table or beside your bed or on the bookshelf, or atop the bathroom cabinet. Keep it in sight these days and wonder how what it symbolizes might be a source of healing and life to you.” (BWB 16:3, p. 56)

A "bronze serpent"

The people are focused on everything that is wrong and want someone to blame. Naturally, Moses and God become the targets. Then as some are bitten by snakes and die, they panic.

Moses, of course, is the middle man and catches it from both sides. However, God is lenient and gives him the task of making a bronze serpent to mount on a stick. This is no easy task as bronze is the product of a commercial environment, and, if memory serves me, these Israelites left Egypt with only the clothes on their backs and are now in the wilderness. But not to be deterred Moses presses on. What happens? He thinks about something other than these complaining, bickering Israelites. He becomes creative, works out his more immediate problem, and somehow comes up with a bronze serpent on a stick. This project took him away from the huge problem of moving this group to the promised land to a short term goal which he could accomplish in a reasonable time. Better mental health for Moses.

Second, snake bite victims are assured that if they look at the serpent on a stick they will not die. Again the shift of attention is a healthy move for them as well as if, in effect, they said, “Down, down, down, Blood Pressure; chill, Adrenaline. Antibodies, do your stuff.” Obviously, changing the way they reacted to snake bite had a positive effect.

Ruth Zepeda, St. Mark’s Cathedral, Shreveport, LA

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