There is a wonder-filled Easter story recorded in the Old Testament that can help us today in dealing with all the trials, negativity and tragedies that surround us.
As the children of Israel were being led by Moses through the wilderness, they began to complain about the blessings God had given them including their freedom and right to choose Jehovah as their god. They complained about the struggle they were having, even about the life-saving bread God was providing them daily; that “manna from heaven” which sustained their lives. (See Numbers 21:4-5)
In order to stir them up to remembrance of where their blessings came from, and also as a consequence of their ingratitude, God sent fiery serpents among them — an even greater trial to endure. As the people begged Moses to pray to God for relief, he was instructed to do a very curious thing: “The Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent and set it upon a pole; and it shall come to pass, that everyone that is bitten, when he looketh upon shall live.
And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Numbers 21:8-9)
There is beautiful symbolism in this experience had by the children of Israel. As we think about our own lives individually and as a people, where do we look for peace, salvation and understanding? Those Israelites who looked to their own resources to fix their problems were left to just that — their own devices. The result being, they did not survive. Those who looked upon the symbol and trusted a prophet’s voice, lived.
When I have sought in my life to find answers to my difficulties in the philosophies of men, I have always come to frustration and continued suffering. When I have turned to the “Bread of Life” (John 6) or sought to partake of the “Living Water” (John 4) then I have been led to peace and found the help I needed.
In explaining the symbolism of the story, an ancient prophet has taught, “…The labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished.” (1 Nephi 17:41).
Is it really that simple, that we should “look to God and live?”
“Yea, did he (Moses) not bear record that the Son of God should come? And as he lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, even so shall he (Christ) be lifted up who should come. And as many as should look upon that serpent should live, even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit, might live, even unto that life which is eternal.” (Helaman 8:14-15)
Christ “descended below all things” and was “lifted up” for us that we might, through Him, be lifted up to God. (John 3:14-17) This is the hope of Christians everywhere, that all might look to Christ and live.
If you would like to know what members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints actually believe about Christ, please join us March 31 and April 1 for the broadcast of the LDS General Conference. Sessions both days 9 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m. Available online or at lds.org or at your local LDS Chapel.