We’ve dealt with snakes since the beginning. In the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-5), the snake tempted Eve and prompted her to tempt Adam.
Handling snakes can be deadly. In Acts 28:3 when the viper attached itself to Paul’s hand as he was building a fire, the people waited for him to die; when he didn’t, they assumed he was a god (Acts 28:6). Serpents have often represented the devil or evil. In Numbers 21:1-7, because the people rejected God’s word, they paid for their evil by being bitten by poisonous snakes and died. Imagine having your property infested with poisonous snakes!
But in one sense we are all snake handlers when we consider the metaphorical aspects of snakes symbolizing Satan and evil. These are the temptations we give in to and the sins we have not eliminated from our lives. The Psalmist makes this connection in Psalm 140:3: “They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s; the poison of vipers is on their lips.” Anytime we involve ourselves with temptations, it is like handling snakes; we can be bitten anytime.
In reading about snake handling religion, I found that over 70 handlers have died by snakebite. What deadly snakes do we handle? John speaks of some of the deadly snake-handlers in Revelation 21:8, “…the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.”
The people in Numbers 21 had to look up to the bronze serpent to be healed (verse 9). And the bronze serpent was a type of Christ since Christ was lifted up for man (John 12:32). Jesus Christ was lifted up on the cross (Galatians 6:14). The blood of Jesus is the antidote for the venom of sin and is the center of our salvation (Colossians 1:14).
Avoid handling snakes. And when you do succumb to temptation, remember that Jesus is the only way to be saved. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).