Friday, October 16, 2015

Don't Make The Good Things In Your Life Into An Idol...

There's a great set of connecting stories in the Old and New Testaments regarding the bronzed serpent made by Moses in the wilderness. Taken together, they give us a couple of really good life-lessons to heed and follow.

In Numbers 21, Aaron has passed away, Israel has a skirmish with Arad and then God has them skirt around the Edomites. The people become impatient so they complain against Moses and against God.  The Lord sends poisonous snakes among them and several Israelites are bitten and die. They cry out to mercy and so God tells Moses to make a snake image, mount it on a pole and anyone who looks at the bronzed snake, will live (even if they are bitten).

Fast forward a couple of hundred years to the time of King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18). Israel (the northern Kingdom) has fallen and times are tough in Judah. Hezekiah, is one of the good kings and he desires to renew Judah's vows and commitment to Yaweh. He removes the high places and destroys the altars and shrines of the foreign gods. He then breaks into pieces the bronze snake that Moses made because it too has become an idol. He even named it "Nehushtan" meaning a bronzed thing or a detestable thing.

Again, fast forward a couple of hundred years to the time of Jesus. Jesus is talking to a Pharisee named Nicodemus who came to him by night to ask Jesus about God (John 3). As Jesus is talking with Nicodemus, He brings up the imagery of Moses' bronzed snake and uses it as a redemptive analogy to describe His coming sacrifice and crucifixion. Jesus says in John 3:14-15...

"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life."

So, here's the recap.

* The children of God are disobedient and rebellious, God sends snakes among them, He then has Moses to make a bronzed snake and all that looked at the snake were saved.

* The Israelites began to worship the bronzed snake forgetting that it was God who provided salvation. Hezekiah had the idol destroyed.

* Jesus uses the story of the serpent being lifted up and people looking to it to foreshadow the fact that He also would one day be lifted up (on a cross) and those who "looked" to Him would live and have eternal life.

Life Lesson #1 - We should always be very careful about the victories God brings to our lives. We do not want them to turn into idols. It is God that should be the focus, not what He does for us. We should, as the saying goes, seek His face, not his hands.

Life Lesson #2 - God/Jesus can take the most twisted story (e.g. the bronzed snake becoming a "Nehushtan") and turn it into a redemptive story. I find comfort in this knowing that He has done this in my life and millions of others. I know that I once was blind, but now I see.

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