Going for the Gold
4 Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” 6 So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.
7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
8 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.
It was a miraculous, glorious provision – and it worked. As a matter of fact, Jesus mentioned it as an example of what he would accomplish when he died on the cross. (John 3:14-15 kjv) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not parish, but have eternal life.
But do you know what happened to that metallic snake? If you don’t, you’re in for a big surprise. In 2 kings 18:4 we read: He (King Hezekiah) removed the high places and broke down and sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah (Idol alters). He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan.
This occurred about six century B.C. The Original event with the snakes took place much earlier-around 1450 B.C. For about eight centuries they had hung on to that bronze serpent. Can you believe that! They dragged it here and carried it there, preserved it, protected it, and polished it. Finally, they made an idol of it and even gave it a name. Nehushtan. That word simply means “a piece of bronze.”
William James said, “That which holds our attention determines our action.” Setting GOALS is important in life. GOALS determine direction and they eliminate an undisciplined life. I like the story out of the Dilbert comic strip I read some time ago that will put this particular point into perspective.
Pet dog to Dilbert, “I’m going to try my paw at being a career counselor. Insecure people will seek my advice and I’ll tell them to be more self- reliant.”
Dilbert responds to his pet, “That sounds lazy and unhelpful.”
Dog’s response, “Would you want a career advice from someone who has to work hard?”
GOAL setting is hard work.
Israel was willing to settle for the bronze rather than the gold. For centuries they prized the bronze when God was the gold. Nehushtan, wasn’t God’s best, it’s was God’s provision to arrive at His best. The bronze was just part of the process to get to the gold. For Christians the goals are more complex. Not only does the world set goals but many of them also have integrity, as we must.
However that makes the Christian goal more complex is the fact that we must allow God’s purposes to be inseparably linked to what we desire to achieve. One last observation I would like to make is that Israel allows circumstances and environment to condition them to settle for the bronze.
“He is also head of the body, the church,” wrote Paul, “and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead’ so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything” (Colossians 1:18)
Did you get that? First place in everything. Christ is the Gold. He is first place. At this point, I think you can figure the rest out for yourself.
Leo Calvin Price