Many are familiar with John 3: 16.
But out of all of those who know John 3: 16, how well do they know verses 14 and 15?
Jesus references an account recorded in the twenty-first chapter of Numbers; a bizarre one-time incident demonstrating both God’s wrath and a redemption outside of the Mosaic Law. Was it not for Jesus’ reference to Moses and the serpent, the account would be but a strange story in the history of Israel. Yet because of the gospel of Jesus, this strange story becomes prophetic in the same way that the Passover is prophetic; it foreshadows the gospel of Jesus Christ and New Testament doctrine.
It is easy for the casual reader of Scripture to overlook this account, because just as quickly as it comes it goes. There is not really another significant reference to this passage in the rest of the Old Testament. Yet because of Jesus’ words we know that the Holy Spirit intended for this account to be used to foreshadow the gospel of Christ. Consider then, this Old Testament passage and its support of New Testament doctrine:
- The people grumbled against God and Moses and were being afflicted unto death. The New Testament teaches
“For the wages of sin is death…” Romans 6: 23
- The people in their sin could not have imagined God sending serpents to smite them unto death, and yet God also allowed Moses to intercede for the ignorant people. The New Testament teaches that we, in our sin, are ignorant of God’s wrath and need intercession to be saved.
“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23: 34
- The antidote to being bitten by a serpent was to look at a serpent. The New Testament teaches that the answer to our sin is to look upon Him who became sin.
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5: 21
Regarding The Scarlet Thread, this account of Moses and the serpent is a particularly fun passage to study, because Jesus Himself specifically references it and alludes to how we ought to read the passage in light of the cross of Christ. And yet it also serves as a stark warning to everyone who hears the gospel preached. The Apostle Paul references the passage in his warning to the Corinthian church, which was plagued with sin: