Have you ever noticed that God does things in the weirdest ways? Seriously. The Creator of the Universe, who spoke everything into existence, solves other problems in the most bizarre way imaginable.
Consider the brass serpent in the wilderness. Israel, as they so often did, started griping at Moses about their situation. In this case, they’d been required to take the around-the-world-to-the-left route to go around Edom, so they became discouraged. Then, adding further insult, they complained about the diet of manna. God, having had it up to here with their endless grumbling, sent fiery snakes. Folks began dying in huge numbers, so they went to Moses for a solution, and Moses went to God1.
What did God use to heal them? Well, he told Moses to make a brass serpent on a stick and set it up on a hill. Even stranger, anyone who looked at the snake on a stick on the hill was saved. No elaborate rituals were needed. No sacrifices were made. Just look at the brass serpent and Poof! All better2!
Oh, but wait, that’s just the beginning. Imagine that you’re Joshua hiking around the countryside near Jericho one night when you find an armed guy. You challenge the guy only to find out that you’re talking to God3. Then Joshua and God had a war council in which Joshua found out how God wanted Israel to take on Jericho.
Can you imagine the meeting between Joshua and his generals later that night? I can see it now. Joshua starts outlining his plan for marching silently around the city for six days, then on the seventh day, that circuit is completed 7 times. Folks blow trumpets, and the walls should fall4. My brain conjures images of his generals hearing that plan then regarding him as if he were a taco short of a combo plate.
The ultimate foolishness was the cross. Before you start screaming “Blasphemy!” at me, that’s not me saying that. The Holy Spirit says that by way of Paul5. Give this some thought. Jesus made everything6, yet the hill he created was where he was crucified. The wooden beams he had been nailed to came from a tree that he had fashioned. The nails were made from ores he’d placed. At any point, Jesus could have decided, “That’s it! I’m outta here!” Twelve legions of angels would have come to him for the asking7. Who could have faulted him? He was innocent of all crimes. He didn’t deserve such torment. For our sakes, however, Jesus chose to stay the course.
So why does God choose the weird solutions?
The brass serpent shows us that he’ll do bizarre stuff to teach us a lesson. Brass is the metal symbolizing judgment. A snake can represent sin. When you put that together, the brass serpent represents sin judged. Notice also, that Israelites couldn’t go look at the snake to make someone else well. The individual had to accept God’s solution to the sin committed. Finally, the snake on the hill was used by Jesus as a symbol for himself8. The solution to the plague became a model for us now.
The seven-day hike around Jericho followed by trumpets to wipe out the city proved that victory came from the Lord, not from the incredible military prowess of the Israelites. God’s orchestration and omnipotence become easily apparent when the path to success is so far out in the field that there’s no logical way that it works. If you need another example or two of this particular phenomenon, consider Gideon’s army against the Philistines9 or the way Christ healed a blind man with some spit10.
Finally, at times God will use a unique way to solve the crises in our world so he can see how well we trust him. The path to salvation seems too easy to us at times. All I have to do is pray to receive Christ in my heart to be my Lord and Savior, and the deal is done? There’s nothing I need to do to secure this arrangement outside of trusting Christ. That requires a great deal of trust. “God will find a new way everyday to ask you, ‘Do you trust me?11’”
1 Numbers 21:4-7
2 Numbers 21:8-9
3 Joshua 5:13
4 Joshua 6:1-5
5 1 Corinthians 1:18
6 John 1:1-3
7 Matthew 26:53
8 John 3:14
9 Judges 7
10 Mark 8:23
11 Missler, Chuck. (Recurring quote in many of his commentaries). Koinonia House.