Grace Sets You Free From Idolatry: Part 2

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The Son of Man lifted up on the cross is our cure for idolatry.

Are you ready for some good news?

Jesus was lifted up, like the bronze serpent in Moses’ day, so that anyone who looks to Him will be spared the poison of sin and live a life of victory over the enemy.

In Numbers 21 there is a fascinating story about a cure for the Israelites in the midst of a poisonous judgment against their sin. The people had rebelled and the Lord sent correction to His people by way of fiery serpents. When the people repented and asked Moses to intercede for them, the Lord instructed Moses to put an image of a serpent on a pole and, when bitten, infected Israelites could look up to the serpent and be healed.  It was a beautiful foreshadowing of the cross of Christ. In explaining the necessity of being born again to Nicodemus, Jesus references the bronze serpent of Moses (John 3).

What’s most fascinating about the bronze serpent, though, is an intriguing verse tucked in the narrative that is announcing the rise of the godly Judean king, Hezekiah:

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)

I heard Haddon Robinson preach a message on this text years ago that he entitled, “Good Snake Gone Bad.” Pretty funny – and pretty sad – and pretty typical of the human tendency. During Moses’ day, that bronze serpent on a pole was a wonderful symbol of the healing mercies of God. But, hundreds of years later, someone had pulled that musty old pole out and the people had started worshipping the bronze snake. They had even named it, like it was a god.

Hezekiah had to break to pieces the snake that once was a good gift. Any good thing can become an idol. Idols aren’t replacements to God; they are additions to God.

The good news is that we don’t need a bronze snake or a pole to put it on. We have the Son of Man lifted up on the cross as our double cure – the purging of the poison and the power to tread upon the serpents that bit us. And that’s the Gospel!



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