The book of Numbers sometimes surprises us with exciting stories. Today, we heard about the people of Israel complaining, again. In the past, God had been generous with them and given them everything that they need. He gave them manna and birds to eat, He gave them water, and perhaps most importantly He led them out of slavery and made them a people that were his own. This time, however, the people were simply complaining because they were tired of the gifts that God had given them. That was a mistake, because they were rewarded with snakes.
They realized their error and begged Moses to intercede for them. God told Moses to make a staff, mounting on it a snake, and that people who look upon it would be healed. Much imagery exists in this scene. For example, those who look upon the Crucifix are reminded of how Christ heals all our sins. This is perhaps the most important of the images. One other image that comes to mind is that modern medicine uses this symbol still. The Rod of Asclepius is used in many health organizations’ logos. While many claim it to be Greek in origin, I believe that the Hebrew story is much older. This is just one of the many ways we can see the Christian and Jewish traditions throughout even modern culture.
We can never forget that complaining is poisonous. It can cause problems and negativity, and these can create a toxic environment. The idea that complaints are like snake bites is a very apt image, because the toxic effect is similar. So let us police our lips, and avoid fruitless complaining whenever possible.
Today’s Readings: Num 21:4-9; Ps 102:2-3, 16-18, 19-21; Jn 8:21-30