Idolatry and the Bronze Serpent
After preaching on Idolatry, a question concerning the Bronze Serpent was asked. I am in the middle of a series of Devos on Drifting,
but I felt led to post an answer. The next Devo we will return to Drifting.
Let’s lay the groundwork for the formula of God’s deliverance. God’s deliverance is always based on us receiving His grace through trusting belief (faith). It is never by our works. Good deeds and offerings of money will not deliver us from sin. Confession, repentance, and believing that God will give us His grace channeled through our faith will deliver us from our sin. This is stated plainly in Eph 2:8-9:
Ephesians 2:8–9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Here is the context:
Numbers 21:4–9 “Then the people of Israel set out from Mount Hor, taking the road to the Red Sea to go around the land of Edom. But the people grew impatient with the long journey, and they began to speak against God and Moses. “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?” they complained. “There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this horrible manna!” So the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people, and many were bitten and died. Then the people came to Moses and cried out, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take away the snakes.” So Moses prayed for the people. Then the Lord told him, “Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole. All who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!” So Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed!”
Now, let’s unpack what just happened:
* Israel sinned when grumbling and accusing God and Moses.
* God sent a judgment of serpents to rebuke them.
* After they realized and admitted their sin, they asked Moses to intervene. God had him make a replica of the serpent and stated that if bitten, if they would humble themselves and only look at the serpent, God would heal them.
* He never insinuated that the serpent would heal them, nor that the serpent represented Him. Looking at the serpent would take faith because how could an inanimate object stop the poison. It makes no human sense to look at it for help, however when tied to a promise from God, faith will allow His grace to heal you.
Later the Bronze Serpent does become an Idol. When Hezekiah became king we see what happened:
2 Kings 18:3-4 He did right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done. 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
* The people burned incense to it, making it a god (idol) and they even gave it a name.
* What God had intended as an object to show your faith to Him in, sinful man had turned into a false god.
* This is why God commanded that no image of Him should ever be attempted, because He knows we will end up worshiping the “thing” instead of the true God.
Romans 1:19–25 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
Questions to Ponder: Have we substituted anything in our life where God should be? Do we look to our job to supply our needs? Do we think our circumstances are what give us joy and peace? Do we think a government or our possessions is what guarantees our welfare? Do we trust in our Insurance for our continued health?