Lent 20 - The Bronze Snake

 

Numbers 21:4-9

Today we are faced with a strange story. The Israelites were stuck in the wilderness and they were growing impatient. They spoke against God and encountered venomous snakes in their camp, causing many of their numbers to die. The people repented, Moses prayed to God and God provided them with a way out. He tells Moses to make a bronze snake, put it on a pole and if anyone gets bitten, they must look at the bronze snake and they will be saved. What a strange story indeed!

There is a lot going on here, but the first question that pops into my head is "why are the Israelites saved by erecting a bronze snake here, but a few chapters earlier in Exodus 32, they are punished for erecting a golden calf? What is the difference between the two?"

The simplest answer is that in Exodus they made the golden calf to become a replacement for God after they felt abandoned by Moses. In our story today, the bronze snake was meant to remind the people that it was God that saves and sustains them. Unlike the golden calf, the bronze snake was never the focus of their worship.

This got me thinking about how often we set up seemingly good things as idols in our lives today. We take things that God has intended for good and set them up as objects to be worshipped, forgetting all about the God who blessed us in the first place. We place the bible on a pedestal and use it for our own selfish purposes. We idolise the church as a building and an institution while we neglect the people she is called to serve. We worship the multi-million dollar Christian music industry, rather than the God it should be pointing us towards.

All of these are good things, but we need to stop turning them into idols for our own selfish needs. We need to constantly remind ourselves that just like the bronze snake, all of these things are meant to point us to the God who saves.

Prayer: Lord God, I am sorry for idolising the very things that are meant to point me towards You. I am sorry for using them for my own selfish purposes. May I draw near to You in all that I do. Help me to point others to Christ alone and not to the idols that we have created in Your place. Amen

Image Source: 1stdibs

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