February 2019 CBA News Article

A Word from Your Mission Strategist, Steve Laughman

In 2 Kings 18, we are told that King Hezekiah led the people of Judah to turn back to the one true God. “He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan.” One has to wonder how something that God meant as a symbol of salvation became an object of false worship.

We all know the story of how the children of Israel were dying from venomous snake bites in the wilderness. (Check out Numbers 21 for the full story.) Moses was instructed by God to make a fiery serpent out of bronze and lift it up. When someone was bit by a snake, they simply had to look at the serpent, and they would be healed. When Jesus discussed regeneration with Nicodemus (John 3), He enlightened the scribe with the revelation that “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.” So some 1400 years before Jesus was born, his crucifixion was being demonstrated in the wilderness.

But somehow between Moses and Hezekiah, the people moved from recognizing the serpent on the standard as a symbol of salvation to worshipping it as an idol. You can see how they made this mistake. Worship in the temple was corrupted. Passover had not been practiced for years. Through the judges and many of the kings, worship of God had been sporadic. The people simply did what people do today. They look for something to worship and often times focus on the wrong things.

What is tragic about this particular instance is that the original intention for the serpent was holy and good, yet over time people adulterated it. I think this is what happens in churches today when we place too much emphasis on tradition and preferences. We have made idols out of things God intended as tools to point us to Him. When the style of worship or the way we do church becomes an end unto itself, we are missing the point. When Jesus is the focus, the other stuff doesn’t matter as much.

So what is your Nehushtan? What is that part of your worship or practice that was once a means to focus on Jesus, but has now become a distraction from true worship? Maybe it is time we do some introspection and shatter the serpent on the standard in our own lives. Making these changes can be difficult, because we have placed importance on such things. But remember that when Jesus is lifted up, He will draw all men unto Himself. Let’s be like Hezekiah who “clung to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him.”(2 Kings 18:6)