Victoriously Overcoming the Wilderness’ “Fiery Serpents”

Numbers 21: The Process of Overcoming­—From Sin to Victory and Salvation!

  • 21:4–9, The bronze serpent on the pole is a prophetic picture of salvation at the cross of Yeshua from the sting of death brought on by sin (John 3:14–15; 1 Cor 15:55–57). This is a picture of the believer’s initial salvation.
  • 21:10–22:1, Here is a recounting of the Israelites’ wilderness trek before entering the Promised Land. It was a time of testing, refining, building of faith, and learning obedience for the Israelites. This is a picture of the spiritual walk of the believer through the wilderness of this physical life.
  • 21:14–35, While crossing the wilderness, the Israelites had to fight and overcome the enemy—that is, those who would keep them from fulfilling their YHVH-ordained destiny to possess the land and inheritance he had promised them. First came the fighting and overcoming, followed by the victories. The life of the believer is one of spiritual struggle, as well, against the world, the flesh and the devil. (See Rom 7:14–25; 2 Cor 10:3–5; Eph 6:10–18.)
  • 21:10, 14–18, Here we read how Israel was refreshed with water from the rock. Isaiah speaks about the wells of salvation (Isa 12:3). There is a springing up of joy and praise (verse 17) that comes as victory is experienced, and as YHVH makes rivers to flow out of seemingly dry and barren situations (verse 18). We, too, are called to come to the rivers of salvation, the river of life and to become a river of life ourselves to all those with whom we come into contact (John 7:37–39). Yeshua is the source of that living water; he is the spiritual Rock and source of water that never runs dry (John 4:10, 13–14; 1 Cor 10:4).

Numbers 21:4–9, Fiery serpent. The plague of fiery serpents was a righteous judgment Elohim brought upon Israel for murmuring and unbelief. Israel had “sharpened their tongues like a serpent” (Ps 140:3) and “their throat [was] an open sepulcher; with their tongues have … used deceit; the poison of asps [was] under their lips” (Rom 3:13). All this was directed at Elohim and Moses. As a result of their sin, they reaped what they had sown. Elohim loosed fiery serpents upon the Israelites to bite and sting to death the unbelieving murmurers.

The wilderness Elohim led the Israelites through was full of fiery serpents and scorpions (Deut 8:15), yet this is the only account in the Torah of these creatures ever attacking Israel. YHVH had protected them to this point, but this one time he pulled back his hand of providential protection and grace allowing them to experience the due recompense of their sinful actions. How often has our merciful Father withheld the just desserts of our faithless, rebellious and abominable action against him and graciously protected us from the full consequences of our sin? If we fail to hear his soft voice of correction he will deal more harshly with us until our attention is gained (Ps 32:8–9). All he has to do is withdraw his hand of protection that restrains the judgments we all deserve and the “fiery serpents” will likewise attack us. Remember what happened to Ananias and Sapphira in the book of Acts is an example of this (Acts 5:1–11). Job experienced a similar situation as well.

Israel’s Murmuring. Israel complained for lack of food and water. In unbelief they concluded and confessed (literally prophesied upon themselves a curse) that they would die in the wilderness. Elohim gave them the fulfillment of their faithless delusions—serpents to sting them and leave them physiologically in a parched and burning condition. (The poison of these snakes actually leaves the victim burning with a fiery pain in his body and a desperately dry and thirsty condition [See Adam Clarke’s Commentary, vol. 1, p. 684]). This occurred with the quail also. They complained with their mouths and lusted for meat and Elohim gave them so much quail that it “came out of their nostrils” (Num 11:20). Many were struck dead in judgment. What is the lesson of this story? That for which we lust or that which we fear will come upon us, for Elohim allows those very things to rise up, attack us and judge us. Why? So that the false gods of our hearts will be exposed and we will, as a result, see the error of our ways, repent and turn back to obedient faith to the one true Elohim. Few understand this method of operation of Elohim, but the Scriptures reveals this as one of the ways he deals with his people to help them to grow up spiritually.

Salvation. Israel repented and received salvation from the sting of death by looking upward toward the brass or bronze (bronze representing judgment) serpent on the pole. Of course, no less than Yeshua himself reveals to us that this serpent is a pictures himself dying on the tree as a sin offering and source of our salvation (John 3:14–15 and 12:32).

Even the Jewish sages admit that the serpent did not heal the afflicted Israelites, but looking upward unto heaven granted them salvation and healing. (See Wisdom 16:4–12)

Parallels between the bronze serpent and Yeshua 

Yeshua likened his death on the cross to the bronze serpent that Moses lifted up in the wilderness (John 3:14–15). Let’s explore the spiritual implications of the bronze serpent as it prophetically pointed to Yeshua the Messiah.

  • Both the serpent and Messiah were lifted up on a pole.
  • Israel was to look up to the brass serpent to be healed physically; sinners are to look up to Messiah to be saved.
  • YHVH provided salvation from the sting of death from no other source but the serpent. Similarly, there is salvation in no other name but Yeshua (Acts 4:12).
  • If the Israelites looked at bronze serpent they were healed and lived; if sinful man looks at Messiah he will live.
  • Both the serpent and the cross are merely symbols of Elohim’s grace and mercy. They simply point one to YHVH in heaven who heals those who believe him and have faith in him.

A Type of the Devil. The Bible calls the devil a great red dragon or serpent (Rev 12:3) whose venom inflames men’s sinful passions through his fiery darts aimed at humans (Eph 6:16). Fiery serpent is the Hebrew word saraph the plural of which is seraphim, which is a type of an angelic, flaming spirit (Heb 1:7). Though physical snakes bit the Israelites, this is nevertheless a picture of Satan, the fallen angelic being who is now the serpent and enemy of both YHVH and man.

For Our Example. Israel experienced these things for our examples (1 Cor 10:1–12). What they went through and how they reacted to various situations is literally a mirror held up for our benefit for us to see ourselves as we really are, so that we will not repeat their mistakes. We owe them a debt of gratitude, for we are able to gain spiritually by their experience if we will lean from their mistakes by not repeating them.

 

Are you a budding rod?

Numbers 17:1–13, Aaron’s rod. Aaron’s rod that budded is a picture of what? Who was the rod or Branch from the stem of Jesse that budded forth with spiritual life for all those who will place their faith in him? Spiritual life for you and me came from what dead tree? Can we not see that Yeshua and the message of the gospel is at the center of everything in the Bible from the beginning to the end? Can there be any doubt that Yeshua is the Messiah? Only he fulfilled all the prophetic types and shadows that we find in the Tanakh (Old Testament).

Aaron’s ministry was anointed of YHVH. The rod represented his authority and its budding represented the fruitfulness of his ministry. It points to the ministry of Yeshua. If we are disciples and imitators of Yeshua, aren’t we to be doing what Yeshua did—bearing fruit as he did? 

Is your ministry anointed of YHVH? What are the spiritual fruits being born from it? Are people’s lives being changed for the good because of your spiritual example, or are you living in delusion of your self-promoting ministry thinking that you are called and anointed of YHVH when in reality you are self appointed like the rebels who challenged Aaron? 

If we are to be pleasing to YHVH we must periodically ask ourselves these hard questions and stay accountable before YHVH.

 

The Adulterous Woman, Yeshua, the Cross and YOU

Numbers 5:11–31, The adulterous woman. This passages deals with a curious ritual involving wives suspected of adultery called the Law of Jealousies whereby the woman is hauled before the priest, her head is uncovered and, according to Jewish tradition, her dress is ripped open just above her breasts (b.Talmud Sota 7a). She then has the choice to drink a concoction of earth from the floor of the tabernacle mixed with the set-apart (kadosh) water from the bronze laver into which is dipped a piece of paper that contains the curses written on it. If she is guilty of the charges of adultery when she drinks the bitter waters, her belly shall swell and her thigh (Heb. yarek or side or loins,which are the seat of procreative power) shall rot as a result of a divine judgment. If she is guiltless, the bitter waters will have no effect on her. If she refuses to drink the bitter water and her husband still suspects her unfaithfulness, then he is free to divorce her, even though she has admitted no guilt. According to Jewish tradition, this legal procedure was carried out by Israel’s highest court in Jerusalem (Sota 7b).

Some biblical commentators see a parallel here between the adulterous woman and the trial and execution of Yeshua at the cross. After only a casual reflection on the issues, this may seem unlikely. But ponder this for a moment. Did YHVH liken his relationship to Israel as a marriage? (See Ezek 16.) Did Israel (both houses) remain faithful to her (their) marriage covenants? (See Ezek chapters 16 and 23; Jer 3; the entire book of Hosea.) Under the Torah, adultery was a capital offense (Lev 20:10). Was YHVH faithful to his marriage covenants with Israel? Of course. He is not a sinner (i.e., a violator of his own Torah, 1 John 3:4). With whom was the fault then? It was with the house of Israel and the house of Judah! (See Heb 8:7–8.) Have we all sinned (violated YHVH’s Torah) and fallen short of his glory? (See Rom 6:23.) What are the wages of sin? (See Rom 3:23 and Ezek 18:4.)

“But I am a Gentile Christian, not an Israelite,” you may respond. “Neither I nor my ancestors was ever an Israelite who was spiritually married to YHVH. Therefore, I am not guilty of spiritual unfaithfulness. I have not broken any marriage covenants with YHVH.” In response, first, who did Yeshua come to redeem? (See Matt 15:24.) Are we all not likened to the lost sheep of the house of Israel? (See Isa 53:6.) Did not Paul equate Gentile believers with the house of Israel? (See Rom 9:25–29 and compare with Hos 2:23; Isa 10:22–23.) Who did Jacob prophesy that the descendant of Ephraim and Manasseh would be? (Read Genesis 48:14–16.) In this scripture passage, Jacob speaks of a Messenger from heaven who redeemed him from all evil, he makes the sign of the Paleo-Hebrew letter tav over his grandsons, which is the sign of the cross. He then speaks of them growing into a multitude in the midst of the earth, or becoming like fish in the sea of humanity (see the Orthodox Jewish ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash/Tanach translation of this verse). Who are these descendants who have the sign of the cross, the fish as their symbol and speak of a Redeemer or Savior? Spiritually speaking, are you not that adulterous woman? Furthermore, does Paul not clearly state that ALL those who have put their trusting faith in Yeshua the Messiah are Israel and Abraham is their father? (Read Rom 4:16; 9:8–11; Gal 3:7, 9, 14, 28, 29.)

Now that we have established this point, let’s ask the next question. At the cross did Yeshua bear upon himself all of our sins? (See Isa 53:4–6.) Did he even bear upon himself our guilt for committing spiritual adultery? Did he die in our place by becoming like the adulterous woman that we were? Was the crucifixion like drinking a bitter cup for him? (Matt 26:39,42; John 18:11). Was Yeshua hauled before the highest religious court in the land of Israel in Jerusalem to stand trial prior to his death? (See Matt 26:57–68.) Was he stripped of his garments? (See Matt 27:31.) Was his side ripped open by the Roman soldier’s spear? (See John 19:34.) As a substitution for us, he took the curses against us for adultery that in times past would have been written down on paper (Num 5:23). In light of this, what does Paul say in Colossians 2:12–15, with special emphasis on verse 14, that Yeshua did with those curses against us? For those who are washed in Yeshua’s redeeming blood and have been buried with him in water immersion or baptism (Col 2:12 cp. Rom 6:3–11), does the devil, who is the accuser of the brethren, have any charges to lay against us any more? (Read Col 2:15!)

 

Christian Privilege: The Only Road to Salvation and Utopia

In our current American culture of educational system, mainstream media and establishment entertainment induced political correct group-think indoctrination, minority groups of every stripe and color are clamoring for special rights and privileges.

Due to the superior priority our culture is now placing on feelings over intellect, many special-rights groups are feeling marginalized and persecuted, whether based on reality or not. This persecution complex is leading to feelings of offense among many often resulting in expressions of anger and bitterness against those who hold to a traditional and majority viewpoint in the society.

This angst among the supposed offended is manifesting itself in “justifiable” verbal hate speech and, at time, even in criminal violence against the police, schools, churches, gun owners, whites in general and white men in particular, religious and social conservatives, Christians, Jews, various racial and religious minorities and the list goes on and on with more people groups being added to this hate list nearly every day. The list of those who are offended include some people of “color,” many women, some Moslems, illegal aliens, non-Christians, the LGBTQXYZ… folks, socialists, Marxists, etc., etc.

From those who feel disenfranchised and disadvantaged by the so-called majority who, it is boisterously asserted, maintain all the positions of power, wealth, authority, and influence, we hear such pejoratively employed terms as white privilege, male privilege, and, again, the list goes on—you fill in the blank. The finger pointing, blame game goes on and on until, it seems, that our society will become so fragmented into tiny special rights groups of offended people that every man’s hand will be on the throat of every one else.

The latest group to hate is Christians, and the latest term to hate term to emerge from the gunk on the bottom of the special rights, woe-is-me, swamp of vicitmization is “Christians privilege.”

Well, I for one happily embrace the term “Christian privilege.” This is because there IS an advantage to being a Bible believing follower of Yeshua the Messiah (aka Jesus Christ). This privilege includes forgiveness of sin, becoming the recipient of the Creator’s grace, a better life in this world and immortality in the next world, and the list goes on and on. Just read the Bible for a full understanding.

The wonderful thing is that this privilege is open to anyone free of charge regardless of gender, ethnic origin, socio-economic status, past religious affiliation, and past sinfulness. Anyone can get onboard this ship. All you have to do is choose it.

For all those who only want to complain and whine about everything and everyone that makes them feel uncomfortable and challenges you to grow up, I say this: GET OVER IT. Become an adult, stop blaming others for your poor decisions and take personal responsibility. Put down your teddy bears, coloring books, and turn off Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. If you can’t get over it, then too bad for you. It’s your problem, not mine. I guess the school of reality and hard knocks will have to awaken you from your feelings-based state of comatose lethargy sometime somehow.  

The article that follows explains how literally anyone can become a recipient of “Christian privilege” and experience both the supreme temporal and eternal benefits therefrom. — Natan Lawrence

Foreword 

I have a story to tell. It’s a beautiful story. It’s about you and me, and our Creator who loves us more than we can know.

First, let me confess something personal. My greatest desire in life next to spending eternity with YHVH-Yeshua my Messiah is to help to be a catalyst for spiritual revival on this earth. That is, to see the light of YHVH’s truth transformationally pierce the darkness of men’s lives causing a mighty river of life from heaven to flow on this earth bringing with it love, joy, peace and the abundant spiritual life that knowing Yeshua the Messiah and loving him by keeping his commandments. This passion burns like an unquenchable fire deep within my personal spirit and soul. I believe this a resonation of the heart of our Father in heaven. 

My next greatest life ambition is to see as many lukewarm modern-day Laodiceans disciples of Yeshua awake from their spiritual slumber and to fall in love with Yeshua the Messiah and to love and serve him for the rest of their lives. Spiritual revival and awakening begins at home—deep in your heart and mind, and it spreads from there outward to touch a dark, sick and dying world. 

My prayer is that the message that follows, by YHVH’s grace, will help to bring spiritual revival and awakening in someone’s life this day.

Made in Elohim’s Image to Experience Pleasure in a Paradise

The Bible reveals that humans were made in the image of Elohim—both male and female. He put the first humans in a garden to walk and to commune with him in a sin-free paradise called Eden. Few know what the word eden actually means. It is a Hebrew word that literally means “pleasure, delight, luxury, dainty and finery.” The seventh day Sabbath is a weekly memorial of this paradise lost, and both the Sabbath and the annual biblical festival called the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot are both prophetic pictures of the Eden that is to come at the end this age called the New Jerusalem, which will be a heaven-like paradise on earth.

In the mean time, the human desire for pleasure, delight, luxury and for communion with Elohim that Eden afforded is an indigenous and integral part of our spiritual DNA. Think about it. What human doesn’t desire this greatly and works hard to achieve this state of existence? Many humans work nearly a lifetime, so they can retire to their “golden years” and live off their investments and whatever pension they’ve managed to acquire. To many, it is considered heaven on earth to spend their retirement years on earth playing golf, traveling the world, partying with friends, working in their garden or just waking up late and Continue reading

 

“The First Day of the Week”—Mian Sabbaton/Mia Ton Sabbaton Explained

Matthew 28:1, First of the week. 

Is this phrase only emphasizing that Yeshua’s resurrection was on the first day of the week, or is it also telling us something else? This verse reads:

 “In the end [Greek: de] of the sabbath [Greek: sabbaton], as it began to dawn [Greek: epiphosko] toward the first day [a supplied word which is not in the Greek] of the week [Greek: sabbaton], came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.” (KJV)

The other parallel passages in the Gospel accounts include:

And when the sabbath [Greek: sabbaton] was past [diaginomai], Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. (Mark 16:1, KJV)

Now upon the first [Greek: mia] day [a supplied word which is not in original Greek] of the week [Greek: sabbaton], very early in the morning [Greek: orthros] , they came unto the sepulcher, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. (Luke 24:1, KJV)

Now one of the week, while still very early, they came on the tomb … (Luke 24:1, J.P. Green Interlinear)

The first [Greek: mia] day [a supplied word which is not in original Greek] of the week [Greek: sabbaton] cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulcher, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulcher. (John 20:1, KJV)

According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, the Greek word shabbaton as used in Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2, Acts 20:7,11 and 1 Corinthians 16:2 though translated in the KJV as “the first day of the week” literally and idiomatically means, “one of the sabbaths” signifying “the first day after the sabbath.” (p. 810)

Some scholars see this as a reference to the beginning count of the Feast of Weeks since in all the above references either that Feast or the Feast of Unleavened Bread is mentioned in the textual context of each passage.

The Interlinear Bible of J.P. Green translates sabbaton in Matthew 28:1, John 20:19, and Acts 20:7 as sabbaths, though he translates the same word not as sabbaths, but first of the week or of a week in Mark 16:2 and 1 Corinthians 16:2 respectively. Green translates the phrase containing sabbaton in Luke 24:1 as “But on one of the week, while still very early…” Likewise, Young’s Literal Translation reads, “And on the eve of the sabbaths, at the dawn, toward the first of the sabbaths…” The Bishops Bible of 1568 translates John 20:1 as, “The first day of ye Sabbothes, came Marie Magdalene early, when it was yet darke, unto the sepulchre, and sawe the stone taken awaye from the grave.”

On Acts 20:7, Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament admits that sabbaton is plural in the Greek, though he reference it as a singular word saying, “The plural [is] used for the singular, in imitation of Hebrew form. The noun Sabbath is often used after numerals in the signification of a week. See Matt 28:1; Mark 16:2; John 20:19” (vol. 1, p. 558).

The Greek word sabbaton, as noted, is from the Hebrew word shabbaton, which is from the Hebrew root word shabbat, which can mean “weeks of Sabbaths.” Shabbatown (Strong’s H7677, from H7676) means “a special holy day” and is used in reference to the weekly Sabbath, Day of Atonement, the sabbatical year, Day of Trumpets and the first and last days of the Feast of Tabernacles and is translated in the KJV as rest (8 times), sabbath (3 times). Examples of its usage include:

  • The weekly Sabbath: Exod 31:15; 16:23; 35:2; Lev 23:3
  • The Day of Atonement: Lev. 16:31; 23:32
  • The sabbatical year: Lev 25:4
  • The Day of Trumpets: Lev 23:24
  • The First day of the Feast of Tabernacles and the Eighth Day (Shemini Atzeret): Lev 23:34

What can we conclude from this? The word translated for first [as in “first of the weeks”] is the Greek word mia which, according to the Greek lexicons, refers to the cardinal number one and is not the ordinal number first, which is a completely different Greek word. Why would the writers of the Gospel accounts of the empty tomb emphasize literally week one? Could it be that they are referring to week one of the counting of the omer the seven weeks between the weekly Sabbath within the seven day festival of Hag HaMatzot (Feast of Unleavened Bread) and Shavout (Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks)? The Torah specifically speaks of the day after the Sabbath when the high priest would lift heavenward in a waving motion the freshly cut barley for Elohim to accept (Lev 23:9–14). This event, which would occur on the first day of the week (Sunday) would also commence the counting of the 49 days (seven weeks) of the omer concluding with the celebration of Shavuot (Pentecost, literally meaning to count fifty) on the fiftieth day (Lev 23:15–16).

It seems likely that not only did Yeshua resurrect just after the end of the Sabbath, and barely into the evening portion of the first day, but that he ascended to heaven on the first day, as well, when the priests were waving the barely omer—on Wave Sheaf or First Fruits Day.

Therefore, the Gospel writers were emphasizing a “morrow after the Sabbath” or first day (Lev 23:15) wave sheaf offering, which was a prophetic shadow-picture of Yeshua’s resurrection and ascension to his Father in heaven (John 20:17) to be accepted as the first of the first fruits of those resurrected from the dead (1 Cor 15:20–23) as well as the commencement of the counting of the seven weeks leading to Shavuot (Pentecost).

Interestingly, E.W. Bullinger, the noted late nineteenth-century British Bible scholar, linguist and author of the Companion Bible has come to the same conclusion. Bullinger says in his Companion Bible commentary on John 20:1, states that the phrase “On the first day of the week” should read “on the first (day) of the Sabbath.” He goes on to explain that this is passage is a reference to the Leviticus 23:15–17. On the day that the disciples found the empty tomb was “the first of the days for reckoning the seven Sabbaths to Pentecost. On this day, therefore, the Lord became the firstfruits (verses 10–11) of God’s resurrection harvest (1 Cor 15:23).” (The Companion Bible, p. 1570).

 

No Broken Bones

John 19:36, Not one of his bones. The bones in the body of Yeshua couldn’t be broken, for the Living Word of Elohim can’t be broken even as the Written Word of Elohim can’t be broken (John 10:35).

James says that if we break one of YHVH’s Torah commands, we have broken them all (Jas 2:10). Sin is the breaking of the Torah (1 John 3:4).

Yeshua, the Living Torah, was perfect and sinless. He never broke a single Torah command, even as not a single bone in his body was broken. He was the perfect, blemish and sin-free sacrificial Lamb of Elohim with no broken bones (Exod 12:46).