The Israelite’s set out from Mount Hor, where Aaron was buried, to go to the Red Sea. Frustrated and impatient, they complained against God and Moses (Numbers 21:4-5). Because of their complaining, poisonous serpents came among them and bit them. Moses was instructed by God to build a “serpent of bronze” and place the serpent on a pole and those who looked upon it were healed of the poison (Numbers 21:4-9). The serpent could be used to represent four things; it could represent satan when he tempted Eve in the form of a serpent, or represent the serpents biting the people, or represent sin or it could represent the people themselves.
Jesus gave direct comparison between raising up the Son of Man and the act of Moses raising up the serpent; demonstrating the cross as a means of spiritual healing from the curse of sin caused by Adam (John 3:14). When a person believes that Jesus has died on the cross for their sins a great exchange takes place. The sins of that believer are separated from them as far as the east is from the west never to be regarded by God again. God gives that person the gift of righteousness of Jesus in exchange for their non-righteous sin problem. Jesus takes the place of that person on the cross (they are represented by the serpent on a pole). Since Jesus is taking the place of the serpent on the cross, He is exchanging places with the serpent in the same manner He hung on the cross in our place. The serpent on the cross represents the people of the world who Jesus came to exchange places with on the cross. For every effect from the curse by Adam, brought on by the serpent that tempted Adam and Eve, Jesus exchanges places with that problem in people’s lives on the cross to make them whole.
When Jesus takes our place on the cross (the serpent on the pole representing us and our problems), we take His place in righteousness; (right standing with God). We receive all the benefits that Jesus deserves because of His righteous actions. In the great exchange in the wilderness, the people were healed from snake bites looking to the solution on the pole. In this same manner Paul who always looked to Jesus for his solution was healed from a snake bite while he was on the island of Malta (Acts 28:1-31). Not only was Paul healed of the snake bite he also laid hands on all the sick people on the island and cured all of them (Acts 28:9). When a person accepts Jesus as their savior they receive an exchange; their sin problems for His righteousness. In the same way Jesus exchanged places with the serpent on the pole to satisfy the judgments against us; Jesus took our punishment for sins, snake bites, sickness, or any other problem. Jesus exchanged every effect the curse has on people for His right standing with God each time as they look to the cross.
Most people see their right actions as who they are and don’t replace their right actions for the gift of righteousness. God gave us the gift of righteousness for us to reign in life by Jesus, not our right actions. Beloved you can reign in life by looking at the cross seeing the serpent on the pole as yourself and your problems, caused by the curse through the serpent, exchanged for God’s solutions through Jesus Christ.