In Num 20.14-23 we see that Israel wants to pass through Edom, Esau’s descendants. Edom says they will not allow Israel to pass through their territory, another test. In the meantime, Aaron dies on Mount Hor near Petra. This is a weakness of the priesthood referred to in the Book of Hebrews. His duties as High Priest pass on to his son Eleazar. Israel had to go around Edom after a brief battle with the Canaanites (21.1-3) where Israel destroyed their cities. Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea (Edom means “red” and that is why it was called the “Red” Sea by the Israel). They had to go back to go around Edom. The people began to grumble again and spoke against the Lord and Moses. They complained about having been brought out into the wilderness where there were no provisions.
So, we come to one of the best pictures of the crucifixion in the Scriptures in Num 21.6-9. A symbol of judgment will become the symbol of healing and life. Like the Red Heifer, the clean will become unclean and the unclean will be clean The Lord is angry with the people for their complaining and grumbling and so he sends fiery serpents among them and the people are bitten. Then the Lord tells them to make a “fiery” (serpent is added in English) and to set it on a pole or standard. When someone is bitten, they should look at the “fiery” serpent on the pole and they will live.
Now, the Hebrew word for “fiery” is “Saraph” (“Burning one”..one type of angel is the “Seraphim” from this word) and Moses made a bronze (metal of judgment) “nachash” serpent. Now we need to understand that the healing takes place from God perspective, not ours. When the people looked, they saw a snake or serpent, one cursed (Gen 3.1, 3.14= nachash/serpent). However, when the Lord looked at it he saw a “Saraph”, a burning one, a name for an angel or his sent one (Seraphim).
Now, all of this ties into John 3.14-16. To “live” you must be “born again” and the bronze serpent was a symbol of the crucifixion of Yeshua. In John 3.14-15 he tells Nicodemus that just as Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness, so to will the Son of Man be lifted up and whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. In other words, he is saying to him, “When I am crucified, look to me and live, just like Israel did with the bronze serpent.”
This truth holds true for today. One must look to the crucifixion of Yeshua like one would have looked at the bronze serpent in the wilderness in order to have life. Those that tell the Jews that they don’t need to look to Yeshua on a tree (pole) are like the ones who said “We don’t need to look at a serpent on a pole to be healed from a snake bite. That is ridiculous!” But they died. If the Jews don’t look to Yeshua, they will die from the snake bite of sin. That is what Yeshua is telling Nicodemus.
The people sinned by making the Golden Calf, and its remedy was destruction. Exo 32.20 says Moses took the calf and burned it, then he ground it up into powder, then scattered it over the waters. Then he made the people drink. It was a lack of faith in the Lord in one case, as seen by the making of the golden calf image, and in this case faith in God can be seen when the people looked to the bronze serpent to be healed and live (Heb 11.1). Faith can be seen by action, and unbelief can be seen by action.
Here is a scene that happens because it happens today. Moses has interceded for the people over the snake bites. It is the result of the people grumbling, complaining and rebelling in Num 21.1-5. Someone is bitten, and a relative runs into his tent and says, “Moses says all we need to do is look at the image God told him to make of the bronze serpent that is on a pole as it passes by, and you will be healed.” The sick person says, “What? Just look at it to be healed? That’s silly, who has heard of such a thing. I’m dying here and you bring me stories! I don’t need a serpent on a pole, I need a doctor or someone who can help. Now, get going and get me a doctor!” So he struggles with faith (action) in what God said.
So, that brings us to the question, “What is faith?” We can assure you it isn’t what most preachers tell you. The Faith Movement, as it is called, teaches you that faith is a noun, a thing to possess. Biblical faith is “Emunah” in Hebrew and it is a verb, it is action based on confidence. The word “emunah” is related to the word “Amen” meaning “true.” Biblical faith is made up of three components. The first one is “Ahav” (love of God), the second is “Da’at” (knowledge of God based on confidence and experience) and the third is “Mitz’vot” (commandments of God). All three of these components must be in action in order to have biblical faith. If they are not, there is a breakdown in faith. There is no such thing as “blind faith” in the Scriptures.
So, what is Emunah? It is hard to define in English but it basically means “confidence.” But, we can tell you what it isn’t. The opposite of faith is unbelief. Some people think it is doubt, but doubt isn’t all bad, but it is not the opposite of faith. Doubt can move us into knowledge, to seek it (Jer 9.23, Jer 31, 1 Cor 13) through study. This leads us to action and confidence. In Exo 19 we have a story that gives us the steps of faith and the breakdown of faith. The first four sons of Leah in Gen 29.31-35 teach this. First came Reuben (See, a son). First we see Yeshua. Then came Shimon (to hear/obey). Then once we see Yeshua, we hear and obey his word. Then came Levi (to join). Then we are joined to the Lord. The fourth son is Judah (praise). Once we see Yeshua, obey his word and are joined to him, we become a praise.
Moses has been up Sinai before, so he has a love for God (ahav), a knowledge of God based on confidence because of his experience on Sinai (da’at), and now he is obeying the mitzvot (commandment) to bring the people to the mountain. All three components of faith at work in Moses. So, Moses brings them near (Exo 19.17), but the people saw what was going on and “stood afar off (Exo 20.18).” Then they tell Moses to talk to God for them, and then tell them what to do (Exo 20.19). The breakdown is when the people stood afar off when they were supposed to come up (Exo 20.21). But, what made Moses draw near? The people could have done that, but they didn’t. Faith (emunah) broke down.
God drove the affects of Egypt from Moses for forty years. He was raised in the seat of idolatry. He knew God had called him to deliver the Israelites at forty years old, but he will not be sent till he is eighty years old. He had to be a shepherd for forty years. When Moses first came up to see the burning bush, he was in fear. He also had unbelief (Here I am Lord, send Aaron!). But that eventually moves to emunah. This is what enables him to draw near and speak to God face to face, not in dark sayings.
The Torah contains all that God has made known of his nature, his character, purposes and of what he would have man to do but not in the limited sense of legalism. It is to know the Lord, that is our calling (Jer 9.23-24). In Psa 53.1 it says, “A fool has said in his heart there is no God.” Anciently, there were very few atheists. The word for “fool” there is “naval.” That means one who is morally corrupt. They acknowledge a creator or a “god” but they refuse to believe that he (the god) was interested in holding him accountable for his deeds.
But, Hosea 4.6 says in English that “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge.” But in Hebrew it says, “My people are destroyed for a lack of “the” knowledge (“ha da’at”). We are to study “the knowledge” (Torah) because if we don’t, we would be destroyed. And if we don’t know (da’at) what God said (mitzvot), how can we have faith? There are two of the components of faith right there. Love isn’t enough for faith because John Said if you say you love God and don’t keep the mitzvot (commandments), you are a liar (1 John 2.3-4). Even Yeshua said if you loved (ahav) him you would keep the mitzvot (commandments).
Emunah was seen as the highest form of worship. In Greek thought, the word “school” is “scholazo” meaning “leisure.” You did it in your leisure time. In Hebrew thought, it is seen as your life and worship. We must “rightly divide” (a term from the Temple referring to properly dividing up a korban) the Word of God. So the progression downward is knowledge, to doubt, to unbelief. Faith (emunah) is action based on what God has said (mitzvot/commandments), the knowledge of God based in confidence and experience, and a good attitude (Ahav/love of God). We have more information on Emunah on this site in our teaching called “Emunah-Faith.”
This is the question today and the Torah. Will we go with the Word of God and what he told Moses? Moses told us what to do, that is how simple all of this is. People don’t want to do it because they don’t understand this story. If they listened and obeyed, they lived. If they didn’t, they died.
We will pick up here in Part 23.