The grumbling gives way to a plague. That wakes the Israelites up. They acknowledge their sin and ask for the plague to be lifted. It’s just like Pharaoh only acknowledging God when he wanted to end his suffering and couldn’t manage it himself.
We know that in their acknowledging God, they are actually only thinking of themselves, not repenting of how they were treating their Father God. We know that because it happens over and over. True repentance is a change, not a temporary feeling of being sorry because of the trouble you are experiencing.
Fiery serpents are released among them. Though I believe this was a literal event, it also seems quite the obvious metaphor for Satan and his fiery darts and his serpent-like ways always trying to bring death to God’s people. It was a metaphor for the curse sin has brought on humanity.
The curse of the serpents is lifted by the serpent being lifted up on the pole. We later read in Scripture how Christ was lifted up and how everyone who hangs on a tree is cursed.
Nicodemus was possibly the first one to be taught about the connection between this event and the cross of Christ. Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a leader of the Jews, came to Jesus, and Jesus explained,
“…As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15)
The serpent was lifted up. Christ was lifted up. What’s the connection between the two?
It’s these verses:
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf…” (2 Cor. 5:21 NASB 1995)
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree…” (1 Peter 2:24)
It was sin up on the cross. It was the curse. And it was overcome.
We look to the cross and are saved. We look to the cross and we see all of the problems of sin destroyed, and we know that in Christ we have overcome.