[Hezekiah] 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. 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.
-2 Kings 18:3-4 (NLT)
Rewind a bit to the book of Numbers… The Israelites are becoming antsy with God and start complaining. God sends poisonous snakes their way, many of which bite and kill the people. They realize their mistake and beg Moses to do something. God then tells him to make a bronze snake, mount it on a pole, and anyone who looks at it will be healed. And it works.
I’m sure this bronze snake on a pole quickly became an important memento, if you will. To the Israelites, it was a constant remembrance of God’s provision, safety and presence.
The problem is, when it makes an appearance again in 2 Kings, the snake means something more to them. Now they are offering sacrifices to it. They even glorify it with a name — Nehushtan. This object that was originally used by God and was a reminder of God, was being worshiped as God. The bronze snake is now an idol.
It’s easy to read this story and mock the Israelites for their silly worship practices, but in reality, we’re just as guilty. Unfortunately there are still “Nehushtans” in the church today. Maybe you’ve heard these impassioned arguments before…
KJV or NIV? Traditional or contemporary? Sunday best or casual? Pews or chairs?
There’s nothing inherently wrong with a certain version of the Bible or certain types of music. In fact, they’re good, wonderful things that steer us toward God. Just like the bronze snake on a pole.
Sadly, people will still fight tooth and nail over these idols. Why? Because like the Israelites, instead of utilizing them to point us to God, they become more important than God himself. Simply, these things were not intended to be worshiped, but rather to guide our worship. The problem is misdirected devotion.
Hezekiah was on to something. For the greater good of God, we all have to do a little housecleaning every now and then. And that may mean destroying some idols in our lives, even those whose beginnings were entirely holy.
It’s always best to smash your Nehushtans.