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Stake 'n Snake (2)

Understandably, Israel held on to the bronze snake Moses had made (Numbers 21). We’re given no details, but it survived the remainder of the trek in the wilderness and went into the promised land with them. Perhaps someone opened a Wilderness Museum and it became one of the featured pieces. Like the witness stones (1 Samuel 6:12; Joshua 4:4ff), it was an important artifact of their history and could serve as the launching point for some instructive stories.

But somewhere along the way something happened.

The snake stopped being something that pointed to important spiritual truths and started being something that was pointed at. In other words, it stopped being something that conveyed a message and became the message itself. Knowing what we know of Israel’s tendencies (and our own), that isn’t difficult to envision. Can’t we hear the people initially "oohing" and "aahing" as the wilderness generation recounted in hushed tones the sad stories of death from snakebite, while the survivors testified of God’s grace via the bronze serpent? But after a time, all of the wilderness generation would pass. Then all of those who knew someone of that generation followed. If the story wasn’t carefully transmitted or if hearts just simply became dull, the snake could become an easy substitute for the realities it represented.

"We’ve gathered here today for the sole purpose of viewing this snake."

"We are looking at this snake today because that’s what that’s what Numbers 21 says they did in the 15th century."

On it went until finally the wicked Ahaz had them offering incense to the snake (2 Kings 18:1-4). Israel had so misplaced their blessing that they turned something good into something bad. The bronze serpent of Moses had become the fake snake of Israel.

We struggle with our own fake snakes, don’t we? Isn’t it amazing how we can take God’s good gifts (food, sex, money, possessions, etc.), and transform them into something bad by putting them in the wrong place? This is a real of an issue for us as it was for Israel. Our idols may be more subtle but they are no less real.

In a remarkable passage, Jesus tells us that the snake Moses made in the wilderness represented Him (John 3:14-15). He was lifted up on the cross. All who look to Him in faith will be saved (v. 16). This also means that if we’ll keep our eyes on Him, we won’t be guilty of putting them on other lesser things and making idols out of them.

We don’t need any fake snakes in our lives!
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