Worshipping Nehushtan (?)
'Be careful beloved, that we worship not the signs, but the One who really has the power to save'
Just a thought.
Mind you, a thought that some people may not like, but nonetheless, a thought.
This week we are reading the Torah Portion called Chukat which is Numbers 19 to 22:1. It spans a lot of narrative and is a very exciting Torah portion. There is the death of Aaron, the red heifer (oh my goodness we could write a novel on that alone), Moses striking the rock, the death of Miriam, plenty of smiting and the infamous incident where Moses puts the serpent on a pole in order to deliver the people from the serpents that were attacking them.
My thought is focused purely on the serpent Moses put on the pole. For those that don't know, go home and read your Bible, but this narrative starts with the people complaining to Moses;
Numbers 21:5 (The Scriptures)
5 And the people spoke against Elohim and against Mosheh, “Why have you brought us up out of Mitsrayim to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our being loathes this light bread.”
Immediately YHWH responds by sending fiery serpents which bite some of the people and kill them.
In what is a very peculiar story, Moses intercedes for Israel and YHWH's response is;
Numbers 21:8 (The Scriptures)
8 And YHWH said to Mosheh, “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.”
(I am currently working on a much closer examination of this story)
Now this story - to cut to the chase - is interpreted as pointing to the crucifixion of the Messiah. He who took upon all our sin, sin represented by the serpent, He who was set up on the pole, and He who, if we simply look to Him, can bring us salvation. As it is written;
John 3:14 (The Scriptures)
14 “And as Mosheh lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so the Son of Aḏam has to be lifted up,
To put this interpretation into Christianese, this story is an allusion to the cross.
But come along with me a little further into the Bible.
Israel goes on to keep the bronze serpent as a memorial of these events. Sadly, in the time of the Kings of Israel, when Israel turned to pagan ways, they ended up idolising the bronze serpent and it became an image they worshipped.
2 Kings 18:4 confirms this, that they worshipped the bronze serpent. They called it;
Nehushtan been a combination of the Hebrew words for 'bronze' and 'serpent'. Thankfully, when Hezekiah came to power, he destroyed the bronze serpent that we're reading of in this weeks Torah Portion.
2 Kings 18:4 (The Scriptures)
4 He took away the high places and broke the pillars, and cut down the Ashěrah, and broke in pieces the bronze serpent which Mosheh had made, for until those days the children of Yisra’ěl burned incense to it, and called it Neḥushtan.
What was once a symbol of salvation, became a symbol of idolatry.
What was once a sign which pointed to the Messiah, became a sign they worshipped, forgetting the destination, Yeshua (Jesus).
So my thought is this.
Just like the bronze serpent, so to the cross.
And it is just a thought. At HRM we try to not be painful pagan police, though we do avoid the symbol of the cross due to pagan connections.
Just be careful beloved, that we worship not the signs, but the One who really has the power to save.