When we read the Old Testament and see how the people would sin and God would send judgment, our modern day response is that God seems very cruel that he would judge them so harshly. We don’t want to believe that God would do the same thing today but we know God is righteous and hates sin so we focus on our own lives and confess our sins to him daily, know he is merciful to his children.
The passage in Numbers 21 is the perfect example of how God works in the lives of his people. The children of Israel complained against God to Moses. Their initial complaint was that “we were brought out in the desert and we are going nowhere and it feels like we are going to die out here.” It seems like a valid complaint to ask God about but then they just dumped their whole set of grievances which were not valid, “we are out here in the desert with no food or water AND we are disgusted with this wretched food.” God reacts. He was taking care of them. He provided water when they needed it and every day he was providing food in the form of manna. God brings swift judgment for their complaining and ungratefulness and sends poisonous snakes. People died.
Moses becomes their advocate to God for them. God provides salvation from the snakes. A bronze snake was put on a pole and everyone who looked at the bronze snake lived. Jesus became our advocate. He was lifted up on the cross to die for the sins of the world. We were going to die, but we in our sinful state recognize the need for redemption and we look to the cross.
God is merciful to forgive our sins.