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Snake Stake
by Sophia Prinsloo with Barbara Wilmerton Haas

The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people

Text Version | Afrikaans

Oh, how Lance longed to be an adult! Why was it taking so long to get there? Oh, how he ached to be his own boss and do whatever he pleased! No more having to obey parents, no more getting up and going to school, no more discipline, no more getting grounded. He could play his music as loudly as he wanted and could eat only pizza and pasta.

boys playing games Lance grew really tired of listening to his parents preaching to him about drugs, alcohol, dating and all those sorts of things. How boring! To him, coming of age, seemed such a long way off.

One Saturday, he was visiting his friend, Damon, for the first time. Damon was one of the most popular kids in school. Everybody wanted to be his friend. That's why Lance felt highly honored when Damon invited him over for a visit. They played ball outside until they were tired. Later they played some video games until Damon got bored when Lance won too many times. Then Damon decided to do something really naughty.

“Come with me!” said Damon. “I have a plan to spice things up a bit.”

First, he checked on his mom who was busy in the kitchen and then quickly took a key from a special hiding place and opened his dad's liquor cabinet. Grabbing a glass, he poured a little liquor and wine from each bottle in the cabinet into the glass. The liquor mix looked pinkish with a potent smell of alcohol. Just as they finished pouring, they heard his mother's footsteps coming closer. Damon closed the cabinet as quickly as he could, returning the key to its hiding place.

“Whew! That was close,” Damon whispered, relieved as they hurried outside towards the garage, trying not to spill their loot.

Lance knew they were doing wrong, because he was not supposed to drink any alcohol, but peer pressure really got to him and he wanted to feel accepted by Damon and the other cool kids at school. Throwing conscience aside, he WILLFULLY chose to ignore everything his parents had warned him about.

Making themselves comfortable on the lawn behind the garage, they each took a sip. “Phew!” it almost took Lance's breath away, burning his throat all the way down. Damon giggled and took his turn, gasping for fresh air when he took his sip. The boys took some more turns, laughing a lot, beginning to feel lightheaded.

“I bet you won't be able to ride a bicycle in a straight line on the pavement,” Damon dared Lance. In a drunken bravado, Lance was sure he could do anything and accepted the challenge. They took Damon's bike out of the garage and onto the pavement. Lance mounted the bike and began peddling. He swerved left and then right, and then came crashing down unto the hard pavement.

“WHAAAAAAH!” he cried out, looking at his arm. It was clearly broken and it hurt like mad.

Damon rushed to get his mom. She was so worried, she didn't even have time to scold them for their foolishness, but took them straight to the nearest emergency room as quickly as possible and then phoned Lance's parents.

Lance's parents immediately came and stayed with him the whole time. After his arm was set, they took him home. Driving back, his dad said, “Son, do I smell liquor on you?”

Ashamed, Lance said, “Yes, Dad. I am sorry! I really have made a grave mistake.”

His father replied, “I am sure you have learned your lesson, but you are still grounded for six weeks.”

“Okay, Dad,” Lance replied sheepishly.

His dad continued, “Your mother and I always 'preach' to you, because we want you to make wise choices so that you can have a good life and avoid getting hurt. It's the same with the Bible. There's lots of wisdom in there to keep your life free from unnecessary trouble and heartache. Do you know what the Bible says about wine and strong drink?”

Lance shook his head. “No.”

His dad replied, “It says in Proverbs 23:31-32 that we should not be enticed with wine or strong drink, because its consequences are like the bite of a viper and the sting of an adder. It causes a person to say and do stupid things, bringing about heartache and pain, just like what happened to you today.” After a long pause, letting that thought sink in, Lance's dad continued, “The good news is, the Lord is so full of mercy, He is willing to forgive you — if you are truly sorry.”

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Moses sent messengers to the King of the Edom Still at Kadesh, Moses sent messengers to the King of the Edom. The Edomites were the decedents of Esau, the brother of Jacob, and therefore they were also considered the Israelites' “brothers.” The messengers were to ask the King to allow the Israelites to travel through their land, because it was a well-travelled trade route, used by foreign and local tradesmen alike.

Bad news! The King of Edom remembered how their ancestor, Esau, was deceived by his brother, Jacob, who not only had stolen his birthright, but also his blessing. With that in mind, he believed that the Israelites were just as sneaky and conniving as their forefather Jacob, and he did not trust them one bit. Besides, he was afraid if that many people were to travel through his land, they would devour all their crops or, even worse, attack them and steal their land.

Moses tried his best to negotiate with the King of Edom, promising him they would not touch their crops or fruit, or even their water. They would even pay for water. But it was useless. The King flatly refused. To avoid conflict with their Edomite “brothers,” Moses wisely chose another route, trekking along the border of Edom to Mount Hor.

It was there that the Lord spoke to Moses and said it was time for his own brother, Aaron, the high priest, to die. He would not enter the Promised Land because of his and Moses' sin of striking the rock instead of speaking to it.

Following the Lord's command, Moses, Aaron and his son, Eleazar, went up Mount Hor. On the summit, Moses solemnly removed the priestly garments from Aaron and put them on Eleazar. After tearfully saying their goodbyes, but with the hope of seeing one another again in heaven, Aaron died on top of the mountain while Moses and Eleazar returned to the camp alone. When the Israelites heard of Aaron's death, they mourned for him thirty days, paying their respects.

It was time to proceed with their journey to the Promised Land again It was time to proceed with their journey to the Promised Land again. To avoid conflict with their Edomite brothers and travel around the land of Edom, the Israelites had to go south, in the direction of the Red Sea from where they had come.

To the Israelites, it was very discouraging that their own family wouldn't help them. They thought the Lord would at least have given them favor with the Edomites to travel through their land, but He did not. As usual, when things did not go their way smoothly, they got very impatient and began to complain against the Lord and against Moses.

Depressed, they murmured, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this barren desert? We are sick of all this sand in our clothes, in our tents, in all our stuff. There is no water to drink and no bread to eat here. Besides, we LOATHE this tasteless, boring MANNA!”

Moses was shocked to his core and thought to himself, “How dare these people be so ungrateful! How dare they say they detest the manna the Lord has been supernaturally providing for them all this time in the wilderness! It is angel food and tastes like honey bread! Have they lost their sense of taste?”

What Moses and the Israelites didn't know at that time, is that the manna represented the Word of the Lord, even Jesus Christ Himself! What the Israelites were saying about the manna being boring and tasteless, is a picture of ourselves when we get bored and disinterested with the Word of the Lord, become ungrateful and don't trust Jesus anymore.

Poisonous snakes appeared all among them The Lord was not at all impressed with the attitude of the Israelites tempting Him with their unbelief, ungratefulness and abhorrence. Before they knew it, poisonous snakes appeared all among them. Vipers and adders slithered from under the rocks in and around the camp. The sand under the people's feet came alive as snakes coiled and twisted from where they were hiding underneath the loose desert sand.

As they emerged, the snakes struck with the speed of lightning, sinking their fangs into their victims' skin, injecting poison into their bodies. The sting of their fangs was like a nasty, fiery prick, but when the poison spread through the people's bodies, they cried in agony, knowing death was near. It was a horrifying scene to behold and many people died all across the camp. Some died slowly, others quickly, depending on the type of snake that bit them.

Do you know what the snakes picture? The Israelites didn't know it then, but when we become bored with the Word of the Lord and begin to loathe it and don't trust Jesus anymore, we let our guard down and SIN sneaks in like a slithering serpent. It bites us when we least expect it and then we suffer from its agonizing consequences.

Fortunately, the people of Israel realized that they had sinned gravely against the Lord and they came to Moses, crying brokenheartedly, “Moses, we have sinned, speaking against the Lord and also against you! We plead for forgiveness. Please pray to the Lord and ask Him to take away these snakes that are causing so much agony and death.”

With his whole heart, Moses prayed earnestly to the Lord on behalf of the people of Israel. In his love, the Lord bent down and heard him, because this was the prayer He was wanting and waiting to hear. The Lord extended great mercy to the sinful, but truly repentant people. In his exceeding grace, He not only forgave them and caused the snakes to go away, but He also planned to do even more.

Moses put the bronze serpent on a high pole in the middle of the camp so that everybody could see it when they looked up Many people who had been bitten were still alive, and because God loved them and had forgiven them, He wanted to save their lives. So the Lord told Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” Without wasting any time, Moses quickly made a huge fire, fumed it with bellows until it was extra hot and melted a few nuggets of bronze from the Tabernacle's treasure chest.

While molding a serpent from the metal, Moses thought about the serpent in the Garden of Eden who had beguiled Adam and Eve. There, in the Garden of Eden, God said that the Seed of Eve would be bitten in the heel by the serpent, but He made them a promise that the same Seed of Eve would crush the serpent's head. Moses believed anything was possible for the Lord and He was sure He would make the snakes go away and heal the people who were bitten.

When the bronze serpent was complete, Moses put it on a high pole in the middle of the camp so that everybody could see it when they looked up. Moses spread the word throughout the camp that every person with a snake bite should look up to the bronze snake on the stake, believe that the Lord forgave them and He would heal them.

And that's exactly how it happened! Every single person who looked to the serpent on the pole, no matter how severe they were bitten, were miraculously healed. Praise the Lord for his mercy and his healing power!

Just like the miracle happened for the dying Israelites, God wants to miraculously save us from a horrendous death caused by our sin. Do you know what the snake on the stake pictures? The bronze serpent on the pole is a picture of Jesus Christ taking all our sins upon Himself, dying on the cross for us so that we could be forgiven. Jesus was the Seed of Eve who would come to take away the sins of the world, crushing sin and Satan's head.

We must look upon Jesus dying on the cross just as the Israelites looked upon the bronze serpent We must look upon Jesus dying on the cross just as the Israelites looked upon the bronze serpent. When we put our trust in Him to save us, He will certainly save us. Jesus Himself said that just like Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, He must be lifted up so that anyone who believes in Him would not perish but would have eternal life and, in this way, all men would be drawn to look to Him for salvation.

Sometimes when things don't go our way, or when we get bored with always doing the right thing, it is easy to lose our trust in God and our interest in reading the Bible. But that's why the Lord sent his Holy Spirit to help us when we become weak in our faith. We must ask Him to give us a love for the Word of God, and to help us understand and apply what we read.

When we continue to rely on and trust in Him, He will help us not to sin and give us strength to stay faithful. But if we do sin, we must always ask for forgiveness, for He is faithful and just to forgive our trespasses, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord for his mercy and grace!

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Sin is like a snake bite. First it pricks you and then it lets you suffer, as its poison spreads throughout your body. Look to Jesus to be forgiven and be saved.


1. Who refused the Israelites passage through their land? Why?
2. Who became the high priest after Aaron?
3. The Israelites were bored with eating what?
4. What is manna a picture of?
5. Have you become bored of hearing the Word of God?
6. What are snakes a picture of in God's eyes?
7. What does the bronze serpent on the pole illustrate?
8. What did the people have to do to become saved and healed?
9. What must we do to be forgiven, saved and healed?


“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).


“Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents” (1 Corinthians 10:9).

“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Psalm 119:9).

“The sting of death is sin...But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:56-57).


Has someone or something ever bitten you? Who or what bit you? Was it a mosquito or maybe one of your siblings or friends? How did the bite mark look and what happened to it? How about you? Have you ever bitten someone? God doesn’t want us to go around biting each other, but He does want you to eat his Word. What does it mean to eat his Word?

Tell me, how often do you read or listen to Bible stories? Do you listen to or read the Bible every day? Think of reasons why knowing the Bible is good for you. Do you sometimes get bored with the Bible? Think of reasons why. The parable of the Sower can give you some clues.

[After discussion:] Just like the children of Israel had to eat manna every day, you must spend time with God in prayer and Bible reading every day because it is spiritual food that teaches you to live a good and godly life. The Bible also teaches you what sin is and how to be forgiven, as well as how to protect yourself against sinning. Just like the wound of a bite can get swollen, blue, infected or itch, sin in the end always hurts. To find forgiveness for sin, ask Jesus to save and heal you. Next time you feel like hurting or biting someone, instead resist sin and determine to be a good example. Then point that person to Jesus so they can be blessed and experience new life in Christ.


Dog and boy praying

Heavenly Father, thank You for sending your Son,
Jesus Christ, Who bore our sins and died on the cross
in our place. Help us to love and hunger to know
your Word better and never grow bored with it.
Forgive our sins and teach us to obey your Word.
In Jesus' Name we pray. Amen.


Numbers 20:14-21:10



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