DayBreaks for 7/12/19 – The Miracle on a Stick

Image result for snake on a pole

DayBreaks for 07/12/19: The Miracle on a Stick

From the DayBreaks archives, July 2009:

They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. – Numbers 21:4-9 (NIV)

I was recently reading Athol Dickson’s The Gospel According to Moses when I discovered new insights into the passage from Numbers 21, above.  Let me share them with you:

FIRST: Remember Israel’s recent history.  They’d been freed from Egypt, only to find themselves apparently left alone as Moses had been up on the mountain for so long the people felt that he was most certainly dead.  Of course, he wasn’t, but they had no way of knowing that.  And so they asked Aaron to make a golden calf so that they could worship it and perhaps receive some help and direction from the “god”.  While this might seem very strange for us, remember that they’d been in Egyptian slavery for 400 years and had become intimately acquainted with the religious worship of Egyptian gods, which included various bulls, frogs, falcons and other animals.  So they clearly thought this golden god could help them.  The result of that episode was that thousands of Israelites died because they’d formed and worshipped a golden calf.  Now, however, they are in trouble again…whining and angering Moses and God.  So, God sent snakes among them and many died and were dying.  God tells Moses, incredulously, to make an image of bronze and put it up where everyone could see it and that if they look at it they will live!  Do you see the irony?  The last time they’d formed an image to worship it, many died as a result.  Now, God says to make an image and it will result in their being saved!  This must have been a real test of obedience for the Israelites: “Hey, Shlomoe, remember what happened the LAST time we made an image of an animal?  Do you think Moses heard God correctly about this bronze serpent thing?”  It required obedience even when the thing commanded not only made no sense, but when there was precedent point 180 degrees the opposite direction!

SECOND: Athol Dickson did a word study on the verses about the bronze serpent, and he made an amazing discovery.  The Hebrew word, nes, which is translated as the “pole” upon which the bronze serpent is mounted, is not a simple word to translate.  In other passages, the word is translated as “example” or “banner.”  In Isaiah 33:23, it is translated “sail”, but another word entirely is used to describe the mast or pole on which the sail is hung.  In fact, nowhere else in Scripture is the word nes translated as “pole” – it is always translated as the object that is lifted up on the pole.  Only here, is the bronze serpent mounted on the “pole” (nes).  So, to use the way the word is normally translated, we’d find a symbol (the bronze serpent) hung upon an example (the nes, or pole).  It seems God deliberately chose this word to hint that it really wasn’t the serpent that was to give them deliverance, but the One behind the serpent.  But, that’s not the most amazing thing.  The most amazing thing is that the word nes has yet another meaning: “miracle.”  The story of the bronze serpent is both an example and a miracle, pointing to the real miracle: the miracle of a God dying on another pole in Roman occupied Jerusalem.  It is as if God is saying, “When the people look upon what hangs on the pole – the miracle – they will be saved.”  Jesus was that miracle.  It was a miracle that a God could die at all.  It was a miracle that our sins could be taken away.  It was a miracle that God would do such a thing for nothing more than a collection of atoms and chemicals known as a human being.  Yet He did all those things.

When you look upon the miracle on the pole, you shall be saved!

PRAYER: Open our eyes to the miracle that is Jesus hanging on a pole for us!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2019 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

DayBreaks for 7/12/17 – Busted Snakes and Clutter

DayBreaks for 7/12/17: Busted Snakes and Clutter

From the DayBreaks archive, July 2007:

Hezekiah was a man of God.  He’s not one of the better-known characters in the Scripture.  Maybe you don’t even know who he was.  Let me update you if your memory, like mine, is a bit faded these days.  Hezekiah was one of Israel’s kings, and he was a good one.  2 Kings 18:3 says that Hezekiah did what was right in the Lord’s sight.  That’s pretty high praise.  The people had been led into idolatry, but Hezekiah brought them back into God’s pathways once again.  He tore down the Asherah poles that were used in idolatrous worship.  He broke up the altars that had been used for sacrifices to false gods.  As Thom Rainer puts it in Simple Church: He took out the godless clutter that had been competing for the attention and the affection of the people.

But he did more than tear down the Asherah poles and altars.  He did something that would have been considered unthinkable by many of the Israelites.  Do you remember that during the wilderness wanderings, the Lord had sent a plague of snakes into the camp because of the people’s sin?  At that time, Moses was instructed to fashion a bronze serpent and put it up on a pole so that the people who had been bitten could lift their eyes in faith to the serpent on the pole and be saved from death.  It’s a fascinating story, all by itself.  What you may not have remembered or realized is that when Hezekiah got busy with his housecleaning, with removing the clutter from the spiritual life of the nation of Israel, one of the things he did was to break the bronze snake that Moses had made. 

Hezekiah didn’t pretend that he’d dropped the snake and it broke by accident.  He intentionally and purposefully broke it.  Bear in mind that this snake had been in the possession of Israel for hundreds of years.  It would have been a relic.  It had been actually touched by Moses, and it had been made at the express command of the Lord Almighty Himself. 

It took nerve for Hezekiah to bust up that snake.  Why did he do it?  Because it had become clutter.  As amazing as it was – and as fascinating as it must have been to have seen something hundreds of years old that Moses had made himself – it had become clutter because people revered it.  It had become an object of adoration.  It took the attention of people away from the True and Living God.

What’s the point?  Good things can become bad things if we pay them undue attention.  The image of the snake was never meant to be worshiped.  It was meant to be a tool to draw people to worship Jehovah.  But that which was good became bad because people worshiped the image instead.  Can you imagine how the people must have reacted to hearing that their king had destroyed the serpent made by the hand of Moses?!?!  Talk about an unpopular thing to do!

Change is hard.  Change can be very unpopular.  Yet change can also be absolutely vital. 

It’s scary how easily good things can become bad.  It calls for deep introspection.  Is there something that was once good which I have unduly exalted in my mind or heart? 

Break the snakes in your life.  Get rid of the clutter.  Let’s get back to what it’s all about.  It’s not about people’s favorite images or programs or how they think things should be done.  It’s about God and His glory and a proper worship of His Person.

PRAYER:  Open our eyes, Father, that we may see where we are either guilty of, or in danger of, taking something holy and worshipping it instead of You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>