Snake Handling Not Allowed

No doubt, when you get into the historical books of the Old Testament , and start reading about all the kings of Israel & Judah, trying to keep up with who’s who can be like trying to keep up with the latest champion in the WWE. The names can be confusing, and just when you think you know what’s going on- boom! There’s a new king. Yeah, you really need to take your time wading through the historical books, but it’s definitely worth it! There is so much to learn and apply to our own lives in these portions of scripture. I’d like to focus on one guy in particular for a bit, and see what we can learn from King Hezekiah of Judah.

King Hezekiah (II Kings 18-20; II Chronicles 29-32) is one of the few good kings mentioned during this period. When he came to power the Bible says, “He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, just as his ancestor David had done. He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles.” (II Kings 18: 3,4a) You see, the people of God had abandoned the true worship of the Lord, and had begun to incorporate pagan rituals into their worship of the one true God (Ouch, sounds familiar huh?). They actually began to worship the gods of the surrounding nations, forsaking the religious practices God had commanded Moses to teach them. Every now and then you’ll read in I &II Kings about kings, who would come to power and re-institute true worship, but they wouldn’t go all the way and the people still practiced idolatry. Not so with Hezekiah; he brought about serious reform and great revival followed. There’s one thing that he did towards the beginning of his reign, before temple worship was restored, that really spoke to my heart. “He broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, because the people of Israel had been offering sacrifices to it. The bronze serpent was called Nehushtan.” (II Kings18:4b)

Do you remember the snake? Remember back when the children of Israel were traveling in the desert, and God had sent “fiery serpents” among them because of their sin? Moses had a bronze serpent made, lifted it up on a standard, and whoever was bitten by a fiery serpent could look to the bronze serpent and be healed.(Numbers 21) Well, the children of Israel had begun to actually offer sacrifices to the Nehushtan, the first “snake handlers” if you will. The bronze snake had been something God had used to bring healing; it was used in a mighty move of God. Jesus even said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” (John 3:14) We know that the bronze serpent was a symbol with messianic significance that God had used, but IT WAS NOT TO BE WORSHIPED!

Don’t we do the same thing the children of Israel did with the Nehushtan? We worship a move of God instead of the God who moves. We take things that God uses or has used, and worship them. The gifts and the “moves” of God become our idols. We take the prophetic, signs & wonders, social-justice, Calvinism, Armenianism, all the other “isms” and we worship them. We have even begun to worship worship. And like Hezekiah, the Spirit of God wants to rid us of the bronze snakes in our lives so that we worship God in spirit and in truth, through our great high priest Jesus.

Hezekiah knew that we are not to cling to things, even things  God uses or has used; but, we are to cling to the Lord, following and obeying him. No more “snake handling.” Worship God.

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