Friday, May 24, 2024

The Bronze Serpent: In What Do You Trust?

By: Lauren Thomas 

Have you ever noticed the symbol for emergency medical services? It is called the Star of Life, a blue, six-pointed star inside of which is a staff with a snake wrapped around it. The staff and snake are known as the rod of Asclepius, which has its origins in Classical Mythology. But when I see that symbol, I am reminded of a much older symbol: the bronze serpent in the Bible.

At one point during their wilderness wanderings, the Israelites experienced a plague of venomous snakes. The bites from these snakes caused many people to die. The Israelites cried out to God for help. God responded and commanded Moses to make a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. Anyone bitten could look at this bronze serpent and be healed. See Numbers 21:5-9.


Over time, this bronze serpent, which had been provided by God as a means of physical salvation, became a spiritual pitfall. The people began to make offerings in worship to the bronze serpent. Much later in Hebrew history, we read that King Hezekiah destroyed the bronze serpent because the people were unfaithful to God by it.


He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan).

2 Kings 18:4 ESV


We can be like the Israelites who put our faith in something God has provided for us, instead of placing our faith in God Himself. We can place too much faith in the things we own, in our modern conveniences, in our money, in our medicine, in our ideologies, in our political systems. Anything.


We’ve got to be careful in whom and in what we place our trust.


Theologians point to the symbol of the bronze serpent as a type and shadow of the cross. The bronze serpent provided life in place of death, just as the work of Christ on the cross provides us with salvation in place of punishment. As a shadow is lesser than the object which casts the shadow, the bronze serpent is inferior to Christ. May we place our faith in Christ and worship Him and Him alone.


“Behold, God is my salvation;
    I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation.”

Isaiah 12:2 ESV



In your life, what competes with Christ for your faith and trust?

Like Hezekiah did physically, how could you symbolically destroy these idols?

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