So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived. (Numbers 21:9)
As believers, we understand that this picture presented to us in the Scripture is intended to point us to the Messiah. You might be surprised to learn that, in Judaism, it is also understood that the serpent in the wilderness was intended to prompt the people to see more than what was before their eyes. One rabbinic commentator made this observation: “Does a serpent cause death or life? Rather, when they looked upward and subjected their hearts to their Father in heaven they were healed, but if not, they died.”
In other words, our Jewish friends understand that the bronze serpent held no magical powers but was meant to provoke the people to believe in the power of God. In fact, not everyone who merely gazed upon the serpent was saved because the Hebrew word translated as “looked” is better rendered as, “to perceive, look intently, to consider.” In short, to be healed, they had to perceive what they were looking upon; they were to look, not with the eyes, but with their heart. Underscoring this point, another Jewish commentator wrote, “The brazen serpent was a token of salvation … for he that turned toward it was not saved because of that which was beheld but because of thee, the Savior of all.”
In the same line of thought, a person will not be healed just because they wear a cross around their neck. Likewise, no one who looks upon a crucifix is saved by merely viewing it. For that matter, just because someone says, “I’m a Christian,” doesn’t make it so. To truly be saved, delivered and healed one must believe with their heart and not just their eyes — they must exercise and exhibit true faith and trust that the One “who knew no sin” became sin for us, “that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Blessings and Shalom,