1Corinthians 10:5-10 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be you idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur you, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
‘And were destroyed of serpents’ – In Numbers 21:6-9 we see the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. They were called “fiery serpents” because of the violent inflammation and thirst caused by their bites, not because of their colour (Deut. 8:15). They caused many to die but produced repentance and confession of sin (Num. 21:6-7). The bronze serpent was a type of Christ bearing the sins and sicknesses of all men (Matt. 8:17; John 3:14; 10:10; 1Pet. 2:24; Isa. 53:1-12). A serpent of brass was made for their salvation as a type of Christ. Israel later made a god of this bronze serpent and it was finally destroyed in the days of Hezekiah (2Kin. 18:4). The nine-fold type of Christ: The serpent itself was a symbol of sin; Christ was made sin for us that we might be made free from sin (2Cor. 5:21). The serpent was lifted up on a pole; Christ was lifted up on a cross (John 3:14-15). The sick of Israel received healing by looking on the brass serpent; others have received healing by looking to Christ (Matt. 8:17; John 3:14-15; 1Pet. 2:24; Isa. 53:1-12). As the Israelites who looked on the serpent continued to live, so those who truly look to Christ will live eternally (John 3:14-15). God provided no other remedy for the Israelites at this time; so Christ is the only remedy for those who wish salvation (John 3:14-16; Acts 3:16; 4:12; Rom. 10:9-10). As the Israelites had to have faith in the brass serpent as the remedy for their sin and sickness, so people today must have faith in Christ (John 3:14-16; Eph. 2:8-9). As God’s power was the invisible force in the remedy of the brass serpent, so it is with salvation through Christ (Matt. 1:21; Rom. 1:16; Col. 2:12-13). As the serpent on the pole brought peace and reconciliation with God, so Christ did on the cross (Col. 1:20-21). As a confession of sin and prayer were necessary for Israel to receive the benefits of the remedy of the brass serpent, so they are necessary to obtain the benefits of Christ and the cross (John 3:14-16; Rom. 10:9-10; 1Jn. 1:9).
‘Murmur you, as some of them also murmured’ It does not take much to cause the average person to complain. The slightest temporary lack of water, food, clothing, money, or convenience will test the mettle of every man. One is virtually a prisoner to his own desires, appetites, and passions if he is without God. The best will finally complain if the pressure increases beyond normal.
‘The destroyer’ – The plagues in the wilderness was no doubt caused by a destroying angel as in Exodus 12:1-51; 2Samuel 24:16 and Isaiah 37:36.