Whosoever Would Look Upon It Might Live – Alma 33:19-21

19 Behold, he was spoken of by Moses; yea, and behold a type was raised up in the wilderness, that whosoever would look upon it might live. And many did look and live.
20 But few understood the meaning of those things, and this because of the hardness of their hearts. But there were many who were so hardened that they would not look, therefore they perished. Now the reason they would not look is because they did not believe that it would heal them.
21 O my brethren, if ye could be healed by merely casting about your eyes that ye might be healed, would ye not behold quickly, or would ye rather harden your hearts in unbelief, and be slothful, that ye would not cast about your eyes, that ye might perish?

In the prior chapter, Alma compares the word of God to a seed and teaches the people that they have to exercise their faith and plant the seed before they can know for certain that it is true. This is a positive example: the reward is enormous, and the alternative is simply the status quo. If they don’t try the experiment, they can go on about their lives, completely oblivious to what they’re missing.
In this chapter, he provides a negative example of the same principle. When the children of Israel were traveling towards the promised land, they encountered a large number of poisonous snakes (Numbers 21:6-9). Many of them were bitten, and many had already died. The status quo in this situation was not good: they needed to be rescued. They appealed to Moses for help. God told Moses to create a serpent out of brass and lift it up on a pole.  God promised “that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live” (Numbers 21:8). 
The Bible doesn’t tell us how the people reacted. But the Book of Mormon clarifies that many refused to look, even though their lives were in jeopardy. Nephi explained their behavior this way:”because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished” (1 Nephi 17:41). Now Alma adds to that explanation: “The reason they would not look is because they did not believe that it would heal them.”
What a preposterous attitude, right? They have nothing to lose by looking and everything to lose by doing nothing. And yet many people refuse to exercise even the smallest particle of faith to look up and find out if the promise is true!
Alma knew from experience that it doesn’t take much to tap into God’s healing power. When he was in misery after being called to repentance by the angel, after three days and nights of being “racked, even with the pains of a damned soul,” he remembered his father’s teachings about the Atonement. He prayed to be saved, and immediately his torment was replaced by joy (Alma 36:11-21). Alma knew that a very small effort on our part can enable us to receive God’s infinite grace. He also knew that we have to make that effort. It doesn’t just happen.
Today, I will remember that my Heavenly Father is merciful and is willing to bless me when I am in distress. I will also recognize that I need to exercise my faith in order to start the process. I will remember to do the simple things which will enable me to access to His healing and rescuing power.
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