Surviving Collateral Damage

Innocent people do suffer the wrong doings of others.  It is a fact.  We can’t ignore it nor should we be surprised it happens–that would be naive.  Good people and perfectly innocent people become collateral damage when others behave badly, hurtfully and wickedly.  This happened to Joshua and Caleb.  Two men against the entire nation.  You know the story.

In Numbers 13, Moses sent twelve spies into Canaan–the Promised Land.  The cities were fortified.  Armies were battle-ready.  The soldiers looked like giants.  In spite of God’s promise of victory, ten spies were scared–we can’t go in there.  We will be destroyed. Only Caleb and Joshua trusted the Lord for His victory.  It didn’t go well for Israel.  God consigned the nation to wander in the wilderness for forty years–one year for every day they spied out the land (40 days).  Caleb and Joshua were collateral damage.  They suffered the same fate as the unbelieving nation.


Pictured above: Moses and the bronze serpent painted by Francesco Campora

To make matters worse, Numbers 21 tells how Israel “spoke against God and Moses.”  They grumbled and complained.  God sent fiery serpents to strike down the rebellious people.  They were dropping like flies.  The stench of death filled their nostrils.  The people cried out, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.”  Moses prayed.  God answered.  “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.”  Verse 9 says “Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.”

I place myself in Joshua’s shoes.  “I obeyed at Kadesh Barnea.  I had faith God would give the victory in the Promised Land and now my family and I are getting bit by serpents brought on by the disobedience of others!”  Then I hear Joshua tell his children and grandchildren, “Don’t look at the fiery serpents.  Keep your eyes on the bronze serpent.”  As a result, Joshua survived.

How does this story help when we are made to suffer the wrongs done by others?  Jesus takes this story in Numbers 21 and gives a New Testament application.  In John 3:14, 15 Jesus says, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.”  The Cross of Jesus Christ is the answer.  I must look to the cross.  It is faith in Christ and his victory at the cross that gives me eternal life.  It is the cross of Christ that delivers me from the fiery serpents of sin.  Evil behavior that hurts others is sin–it is venom in our souls.  Hold onto the venom and it will destroy us.  God’s answer is the cross.  The cross is the antidote.  It is accurate to say that the cross of Jesus Christ is the cure for all that plagues humanity.

When you are brought low because of the sinful words or actions of another person, go to the cross and be healed.

by Warren Coe

Surviving Collateral Damage