A reflection from last Sunday's First Reading. Numbers 21:4B-9.
Ok, first things first. We have to set up this story by remembering that the Israelites were enslaved to the Egyptians for a really, really long time. God's heart hurts for his people, so he sends Moses to "let my people go, HUHHHHH, YEA YEA YEA YEA!!!!!!!!"
Moses gets them out of Egypt (AKA frees them from SLAVERY), but then they have to travel through the desert. The Israelites are pretty whiny and seem to immediately forget that they have been FREED FROM SLAVERY BY GOD, so they start complaining against God. Which pretty is dumb. So God sends them some snakes.
The Israelites are getting pretty upset because they keep getting bitten by snakes and dying. They repent, and ask Moses to talk to God, because dying from snake bites is not cool. Moses agrees, so he asks God to take away the snakes - to take away their suffering.
God doesn't take away the snakes, but instead tells Moses to make a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. If anyone gets bit by a snake, they just have to look at the bronze snake, and they'll live! Hooray! Everyone hugs each other and they walk off into the promised land, never to offend God again. (LAWLZ. I'm kidding. The Israelites were the worst.)
What I love about this passage is it is proof that God hears our prayers, and he answers them! But...he doesn't answer prayers how we expect him to. I think what God does in this story is even more beautiful. Instead of taking their suffering away, he gives them a way to overcome it.
Now, instead of God working the miracle of making snakes disappear, he works a greater one. He transforms their suffering into a way for his people to grow closer to him. Every time an Israelite gets bit by a live snake, they have to look at the bronze snake and they get to remember the miracle God has provided them. Their suffering gives them an opportunity to fix their eyes back on God.
So today, as I suffer through my email (and probably other small things), I will choose to look up at the bronze serpent and remember the miracles God has preformed in my life.