The book of Numbers is about two generations of Israelites. The first generation complained often and lacked faith. When God brought them to the Promised Land, they refused to capture it. And after God wouldn’t let them enter the land, they tried to prove their worth by attacking without him. They trusted themselves, not God. It didn’t work.
The second generation—their sons and daughters—seemed to be acting the same way. They complained too, and God sent snakes to bite and kill them.
But then they confessed and repented: “We have sinned.” (Numbers 21:7). And they showed faith. They looked at the bronze snake and were healed. They trusted God.
Jesus taught this point of the story when he spoke to Nicodemus. Like that first generation that tried to show God they were worthy, Nicodemus was tempted to trust his efforts to earn God’s blessings. Jesus told him it doesn’t work that way: “As Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).
The second generation of Israelites developed great faith. They fought armies, repented of sin, followed God and took the land. We too can have faith like that. Not just a little faith, but even greater faith than our parents!
We can trust Jesus more strongly. We can so firmly believe his greatness and his love that we become convinced anything is worth doing for him. We can do great things with our faith.