Bite Back

Daily Reformation, Numbers 21:4-9

From the Reformer

It was a foolish thing to turn the eyes to a serpent of brass, to prevent the ill effects of a poisonous bite; for what, according to man’s judgment, could a lifeless statue, lifted up on high, profit? But it is the peculiar virtue of faith, that we should willingly be fools, in order that we may learn to be wise only from the mouth of God. This afterwards more clearly appeared in the substance of this type: for, when Christ compares Himself to this serpent which Moses lifted up in the wilderness (John 3:14), it was not a mere common similitude which He employs, but He teaches us, that what had been shewn forth in this dark shadow, was completed in Himself. And, surely, unless the brazen serpent had been a symbol of spiritual grace, it would not have been laid up like a precious treasure, and diligently preserved for many ages in God’s sanctuary. The analogy, also, is very perfect; since Christ, in order to rescue us from death, put on our flesh, not, indeed, subject to sin, but representing “the likeness of sinful flesh,” as Paul says (Rom 8:3), hence follows, what I have above adverted to, that since “the world by wisdom knew not God,” He was manifested in the foolishness of the cross. (1 Cor 1:21). If then, we desire to obtain salvation, let us not be ashamed to seek it from the curse of Christ, which was typified in the image of the serpent.

—John Calvin, Harmony of the Law

Pulling It Together

The high school students were walking in the desert under the shadow of the Shiprock in Mew Mexico. Suddenly a crowd gathered and the adults overseeing the group soon discovered it was a baby rattlesnake that had their attention. After a moment, one leader suggested that where a baby is, the mother cannot be far away. The crowd quickly dispersed with wary attention.

Everything you say and do has consequences and the fiery serpents of judgment lie in wait. It does not matter if your words or actions are small and seemingly inconsequential. Often the more simple statements are the ones with fiery reactions. What can you do for a remedy? There is but one strong hand to tame the human tongue and allay the actions of a hellbent heart. Turn your eyes now to him who took the serpent in hand and turns the bite of judgment to grace. May your attention to sin and obedience be sharp.

© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reformation: Devotions with the Reformers

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