The warning of worshipping the bronze serpent (2 Kings 18)

The warning of worshipping the bronze serpent (2 Kings 18)

We are all capable of making good things, even things that should point us to Jesus, into objects of worship.

One Biblical example of this is the bronze serpent. Moses made the bronze serpent in Numbers 21 as a symbol of salvation. When the people were suffering from a plague of poisonous snakes, a right punishment for their sins against God, the bronze snake was put on a pole. Anyone who looked at the snake would live. This was intended to point us to the great salvation that Jesus would bring so many centuries in the future, as pointed out in John 3:14-15. There were so many things in common between the snake episode and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, including:

  • The terrible situation of God’s judgement on sin was fully deserved by the people of Moses’ day, and also by all of us who stand condemned by our sin; and
  • There was no ordinary hope of salvation in either case, nothing the people could do to save themselves; and
  • The salvation method seemed crazy but was the only way; and
  • All that was required was faith to look to the place salvation could be found; and
  • The means of salvation was raised up and available to all who would look.

After Numbers 21, we don’t hear about the bronze snake again until centuries later in 2 Kings 18:4. The people of God have now taken the bronze snake itself as an object of worship, calling it Nuhushtan. They were making offerings to it as a god. It was destroyed by King Hezekiah as part of his reforms to turn the nation back to the true God.

How did it get to this? A sign of God’s salvation became something worshipped as a god itself! It is a terrible sign of how far God’s people had turned from their Saviour. But it is also a warning for us. It is so easy to take something good, a part of God’s creation or something intended to turn us to Jesus, and make it something we worship.

We do this with creation itself. Instead of seeing a beautiful sunset and praising God, so many see it and only appreciate it without including God at all. Many through history have worshipped the sun.

We do this with pastors and church leaders and writers that we appreciate. We can refer to them, read their books, tell others about them, but not end up praising God because of what they teach us.

Our God, in his great kindness, has put all kinds of things in our paths that should remind us of his love and point us to our salvation in Jesus. We should be praising him often as we are reminded of his goodness when we eat, when we meet at church, when we work, or even when we wake up to another day he has given to us. Let’s praise God and not be distracted into living for created things instead of the Creator.