And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. and Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole; and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.It is generally agreed that the serpent of brass was symbolic of Christ who was lifted up on the cross as part of the atonement and thus makes it possible for us to recover from Satan's activities.
But I got to thinking about references to serpents in the scriptures in general. In a quick survey, I could find only references to this event and the admonition in Matthew 10 and Doctrine and Covenants 111 to be "wise as serpents" that were in any way positive in re. serpents. The serpent in scripture is pretty exclusively symbolic of Satan and Satanic forces in the world. And yet, here we have an example of a serpent of brass being symbolic of Jesus Christ -- the very opposite of Satan. And I wondered why that was.
Obviously one can read too much into symbols, but one thought occurred to me. Satan and Christ are fundamentally the same sort of being. Both were sons of God. Both were even in good favor with God at one point in the pre-mortal world. Satan was described as a "son of the morning" who fell. So, both had the same potential for good -- or evil. One chose to turn his focus to trying to destroy the Father's plans. The other embraced the Father's plans and became His only begotten son and the Savior of the world.
And, as I pondered that, I realized that the same is true of all of us. We are God's children and we too have the same potential as Satan and Christ. Depending on our decisions and focus in life, we can either accomplish much good and become as Christ, or we can accomplish much evil and become as Satan. Most of us probably aren't a single-minded as either Christ or Satan, but the potential is there. The choice is ours. We control our ultimate destiny.