“He (Hezekiah) did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done. 4 He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)”2 Kings 18:3-4 NIV
Hezekiah was one of the great kings of Judah. The key to his leadership: God is the real King and this is His Kingdom, these are His people. Hezekiah quickly eradicated all objects of worship to idols and false Gods. He wanted to be sure that the people had no distraction from worshiping the one true God. The prophets Isaiah and Micah were friends of Hezekiah and their leadership, letters, and lives have been major influences on Gods people ever since.
Here is the perfect example of “I’ll never be like my father.” Ahaz, was Hezekiahs dad. He was a very wicked man. He nailed the temple doors shut and worshiped false gods. Ahaz set a model for Hezekiah to follow: Do what you want, and let the people worship everything but Yahweh the God of Israel. Hezekiah didn’t follow his dads footsteps, he saw the destruction it created, he saw what it was to lose the favor and protection of the most high.
Hezekiah cleansed the Kingdom of idols and false worship, he cleaned out and re-opened the temple, and he reinstated the passover celebration as a national holiday. All of this is good and all, but there is something so important not to glaze over. ‘He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it.’ What was this bronze snake? What was its significance to the peoples history? Why did Hezekiah destroy it? These questions should lead us to some very challenging conclusions, perhaps even the key to the revival the nation saw under Hezekiahs reign.
The bronze snake was erected by Moses! Moses brought God’s law to the people and the people to His promise. He is one of the three most influential people to the Jewish people along with Adam and Abraham. Moses led the greatest deliverance Gods people had ever seen. The Passover that was reinstated under Hezekiah was to remember when God, through Moses liberated his people from Egypt and spared their children. So why did Moses make the bronze snake? Numbers 21 tells us it was done under Gods instruction, people were getting bitten by poisonous snakes, and God miraculously healed people of snake bites when they would look at the bronze snake on the pole. While there is so much more to the story, it’s so important to remember – this bronze snake was made by Moses and represented a huge part of their heritage, not only that, but of God’s history with their people. This relic was so important that I would say: if it were still in existence today, it would be the most valuable artifact in all museums in all the world. There is nothing like it still in existence.
As significant and important as this bronze snake was to Gods people, Hezekiah still felt the need to destroy it along with all the other idols and places of false worship. Why? Wasn’t this one of the last remaining artifacts from a time we all need to remember? This was a monument to the heritage of Moses and God’s deliverance and faithfulness to them. The issue was that ever since Moses made that bronze snake, people never stopped burning incense to it. Never. They came to worship it. Even though the bronze snake represented Gods healing, they worshiped it, made offerings to it; all the while the temple doors had been nailed shut and the people forgot the God behind the idol. Hezekiah destroyed the bronze snake because it was still idol worship and distracted the people from worshiping Yahweh the One True God. Even though it represented good stuff and was a priceless relic, it was a distraction and had to go. This led to great revival, God moving mightily among a people. God fighting for them against massive armies and raising up great prophets in the land. I can’t help but think much of this was a result of eliminating all forms of idol worship, not just pagan idols, but all – even jewish/christian idols that represent amazing moves of God.
So what do we do about this today? Is it possible that we might have created our own bronze snakes? What if EVERYTHING in your church was destroyed and you had to worship outside, or in a community center? What if someone moves the piano, or gets rid of the communion table. What if they decided not to use the version of bible you’re used to? What if there were no more hymns, or conversely if it was only hymns? What if they got rid of the pews? What if they stopped using the pulpit your great-grandfather built? What if they got rid of the cross? In all reality, this one comes closest – the cross. What about the crucifix with Jesus still on it? This is about as close to the bronze snake as I can get. What if that was gone, would you flip out? Or would you find a way to worship Jesus more authentically. Is it possible that we have idols, Christian and non, that get in the way of true worship. True worship is in Spirit and in Truth. I think it’s of the utmost importance that we allow God to search our hearts and even our places of worship for Idols that do not belong.
And God spoke all these words:Exodus 20:1-6
2“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3“You shall have no other gods before ame.
4“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
It’s time we take this seriously in our own lives and places of worship. Our cultural acceptance of what honors God, might just lead us to the equivalent of idol worship while making us believe its actually God worship. The proof is in the pudding. Where’s the breakthrough, the victory, protection and revival. God will not share His worship.