Numbers 20:14-21 And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us: (15) How our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us, and our fathers: (16) And when we cried unto the Lord, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and hath brought us forth out of Egypt: and, behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border: (17) Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king’s high way, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders. (18) And Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword. (19) And the children of Israel said unto him, We will go by the high way: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it: I will only, without doing any thing else, go through on my feet. (20) And he said, Thou shalt not go through. And Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand. (21) Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border: wherefore Israel turned away from him.

Numbers 21:4-9 And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. (5) And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. (6) And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. (7) Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. (8) 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. (9) 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.


Many sermons have been preached on the brazen serpent. And rightly so. But in this series of blogs we want to focus our attention on the circumstances that gave rise to the fiery serpents. What brought on the fiery serpents? As we read in Scripture, the people journeyed from Mount Hor by way of the Red Sea in order to compass the land of Edom.

Now the word compass simply means to go around, or bypass; it’s the same thing as taking a detour. Now you know that a detour is seldom, if ever, a short cut. It’s generally the long way around and no one likes it: it’s inconvenient and takes that much more time to get to one’s destination. And this is exactly what happened at Mount Hor.

The shortest way to the promised land was through the land of Edom. Now the Edomites were descendants of Esau. The Israelites were descendants of Jacob, who was Esau’s younger brother. The Israelites and Edomites, then, were relatives. They were family. But the Edomites refused to let their brethren pass through their land.

Consequently, the Israelites had to go around their land. This meant going back down by the Red Sea, towards the Gulf of Akaba, then eastward, and finally back northward around the land of Edom and into the land of Moab. This route, naturally, was a longer one. It involved going through miles and miles of barren desert land, with little food or water. The conditions were right, or ripe, for complaining. And, as you would expect, that’s exactly what the Israelites did.

Now the distressful nature of the journey did not justify or legitimize the people’s complaints. Just because you have something to complain about doesn’t mean you should complain. It doesn’t mean it’s alright for you to complain.

Did you catch what the Israelites said in their confession of repentance to Moses? They said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee (Numbers 21:7). They acknowledged their complaining as sin. Brethren, COMPLAINING IS SIN! And God doesn’t take too kindly to that sin.



When the Israelites complained, the Lord sent them fiery serpents. Now these serpents were not serpents of fire. They were not serpents that were somehow mysteriously set on fire. Rather, fiery serpents denote the burning sensation that is felt when one is bitten by such a serpent. The bite would become inflamed with heat and poison. In a very real and felt way, it burned. As a result of these serpentine bites, many of the Israelites died. God punished them for their complaining. Their complaints resulted in their death.

What I would like for you to see from the text of Scripture is, the fiery serpents began with discouragement: And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way (Numbers 21:4). The fiery serpents began with discouragement. And for many of the Israelites, they ended in death. The people were discouraged with the way. And as a result, they died in the way. Discouragement ended in death.

I suppose it comes as no news to you that the same holds true today. Many in the Christian way have become discouraged with the way. The journey has become a matter of complaint. There’s always something to complain about. People are not shy about letting us know what they don’t like about the preacher or the church. And just like the Israelites, the congregation has become a little more sparse as fiery serpents slither their way through the camp, releasing their venom on those who find fault with God and the way. The discouraged among us are dying. Many have already died. They’ve left the Lord and have gone back to the vomit of the world. They’ve forsaken the truth for something easier and more palatable to the flesh. And while many have already died, more are on the way. Are you one of these of whom I speak? Have you found fault with God and the way? Are you ready to give up? Are you ready to leave the Lord, the church, and the Christian life?


My friends, don’t throw in the towel! Don’t be so ready to quit. Sure, the trials are fiery. But so are the serpents! The road to Heaven may not be heavenly. But the easy way to Hell is definitely hellish! You don’t turn away from the Lord and go to Heaven to be with the Lord! When you choose to live without the Lord now, you’ve chosen to live without the Lord for all eternity. When you turn away from God and go back to the world and the sinful life you once knew, you’re going down the road that will lead you to Hell. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. (39) But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul (Hebrews 10:38-39).

Sure, you ‘re discouraged. Who of us doesn’t battle discouragement at some time in the way? You’ve got to remember you’re not the only pickle in the jar. You’re not the only lobster in the pot. You’re not the only catfish in the pan. The way that’s hard for you is the same way that’s hard for the rest of us. We’re all in this journey together. The things that are discouraging you are discouraging us too. We lack the same bread and water that you do. We travel through the same barren desert that you do. You’re not alone.

But some of us have, by God’s grace, managed to get back up, rise from the ashes of discouragement, and press on in the Christian journey. You can too! We looked at the brazen serpent. And so can you! Discouragement doesn’t have to end in death. You may have found fault with God. You may have been bitten by serpents. But it’s not over yet. You’re still here. You’re still alive. Don’t sit there and let the serpents bite! Don’t let the poison take your life! Do something good for yourself and look! Look at the brazen serpent. Look to the Lord. Look to the promises. And look at what God has to say to you in this hour. God has lifted up the brazen serpent for you! And it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived (Numbers 21:9). The brazen serpent was meant to heal and deliver and restore life to all God’s people. And that, my friends, includes you! The brazen serpent is still lifted up. And it’s still lifted up for you.

Coming Up On My Next Blog Post, Part 2. I look at what discouragement does to you. How it affects you. It’s not anything you don’t already know. But you need a good talking-to to help you see what you’re allowing discouragement to do to you. If you want to wake up from the nightmarish dream that your life is, come by next week for our next wake up call.

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