Opening Prayer

Thank you, dear Lord, for the gift of prayer. When I come to you, you always listen, you always hear—you always answer.

Read NUMBERS 21:1-9

Arad Destroyed

21 When the Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev, heard that Israel was coming along the road to Atharim, he attacked the Israelites and captured some of them. Then Israel made this vow to the Lord: “If you will deliver these people into our hands, we will totally destroy[a] their cities.” The Lord listened to Israel’s plea and gave the Canaanites over to them. They completely destroyed them and their towns; so the place was named Hormah.[b]

The Bronze Snake

They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea,[c] to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”

Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

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  1. Numbers 21:2 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them; also in verse 3.
  2. Numbers 21:3 Hormah means destruction.
  3. Numbers 21:4 Or the Sea of Reeds

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Reflect on your faith journey in the light of Paul’s words: ‘I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.’1

Think Further

The moment was bittersweet. Nearly forty years before, right there at Hormah, the Israelites’ presumptuousness had resulted in defeat at the hands of the Canaanites.2 This time around, firmly resolved to honor God and fueled by prayerful dependence on him, God’s people savor victory (vs 2,3) of the ‘first-fruits’ variety, a pledge of the future conquest. Nevertheless, it’s possible to win battles but lose the war! God has chosen to lead his people the long way to their destination. We see that dependence on him is replaced by impatience; battle cries turn into blasphemies (vs 4,5).

Gary Helm says this about the life of a civil-war soldier: ‘Only a tiny fraction of any soldier’s time was spent in front-line combat. Instead, the vast majority of his existence revolved around the monotonous routines of camp life, which presented its own set of struggles and hardships.’3 Despite standing firm in the big battle, God’s people succumb to the pressures of relatively minor matters related to route, terrain, and diet (vs 4,5) – with deadly consequences (v 6).

Do you find it easier to stay strong for one big battle rather than endure a series of smaller difficulties, disruptions, or discomforts over a prolonged period? What irritations or ongoing aggravations tend to wear you down emotionally or spiritually? The upbeat tempo of ‘Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war’ requires tempering by the sobering reminder of ‘the cross of Jesus going on before.’4 The call to take up our cross is a call to daily, disciplined discipleship. Such discipleship is not fueled by a series of adrenaline rushes but requires persistent pressing on. So often, the Christian life is not a brisk march but a patient plod.


Affirm, with Paul, ‘Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me.’5

Closing prayer

Merciful God, when I come to you confessing my sin, thank you that you never turn away and always forgive.

Last Updated on August 11, 2023 by kingstar

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