God’s People, part 82: The Bronze Snake

Read Numbers 21:4-9

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“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 ‭18:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬)‬‬

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

img_1005Part 82: The Bronze Snake. For today’s devotion, I want us to travel back in time for a moment. Before we do, I would like to remind you that that King Hezekiah was a godly king who lived in the ways of the Lord and brought the people of Judah back into a right relationship with God. One of the things that he did was destroyed all of the foreign shrines and idols and enforced that all worship be done in the Temple of the LORD in Jerusalem.

One of the idols that he destroyed was named Nehushtan. That, according to 2 Kings, was the bronze serpent mounted staff that Moses made hundreds of years earlier. It is written that Hezekiah destroyed this relic “because the people of Israel had been offering sacrifices to it.”

Now let us time travel back to the time of Moses. If you recall, Moses had led the people out of Egypt and they had been wandering around the wilderness for 40 years. The reason it took them so long to cross what was relatively a short distance was because they were constantly griping, complaining, and disobeying God. The greatest of those instances came when they abandoned God and demanded that Aaron build a golden calf for them to worship.

According to Numbers 21:4-9, the people were in such crazed fit, angry at God and at Moses for leading them out of Egypt. Now imagine this, they had been miraculously liberated from slavery in Egypt; yet, there they were complaining that God and Moses had led them to where they were. Were they hungry? No. Were they thirsty? No. They had been provided for by God from the beginning.

So, you might ask, why were they angry? Well, they were pulling what kids often pull on their parents. “Dad, we have nothing to eat, nothing to drink in this house.” Of course, if you open up the refrigerator you will see plenty of food and drink; however, what is really being said is, “we don’t have what we would like to eat, we are tired of eating this stuff.” That is exactly what the Hebrews were doing. They were griping against eating the manna that God was sending them, calling it “nothing.” How ungrateful.

So, angry, God sent out poisonous snakes to bite them. Okay, this seems like an outlandish response, but suspend disbelief and bear with it for a moment more. Moses, naturally horrified, prayed to God and repented for the people. He stated, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take away the snakes” (Numbers‬ ‭21:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬). So, God instructed Moses to create a bronze snake and put it on staff. God then instructed the people to look at the snake. Once the people did, they were instantly healed from the snake bites. God’s point was made.‬‬

Unfortunately, what was once holy and healing became perverted into an idol that people worshiped. What was once a reminder of God’s sovereignty and God’s holy presence, became a god unto itself. People forgot that the healing source of the bronze snake was God, and instead worshiped the snake as if it had the power to heal. So, for this reason, Hezekiah destroyed the idol and redirected people to the Temple, where the one, the true, the imageless God was to be worshiped!

What has God done to bring healing and wholeness into your life? How have you taken such things and made idols of them? How have you forgotten what God has done for you? How have you forgotten the sovereignty of God? How have you forgotten our gracious, holy God and how have you turned your eyes away toward other, less-than-holy things? Today is the day for honesty. What has become your bronze snake? What has become your idol. Today’s challenge is to assess what those things are and to eradicate them, as Hezekiah eradicated the bronze snake, from your life.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Man’s mind is like a store of idolatry and superstition; so much so that if a man believes his own mind it is certain that he will forsake God and forge some idol in his own brain.” — John Calvin

PRAYER

Lord, purge me of my idols and set my heart and eyes back toward you. Amen.

God’s People, part 81: Hezekiah

Read 2 Kings 18-20; 2 Chronicles 29-32

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Hezekiah welcomed them; he showed them his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them.” (Isaiah 39:2 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

King_Hezekiah,_clouthed_in_sackcloth,_spreads_open_the_letter_before_the_LordPart 81: Hezekiah. I love the story of Hezekiah. For me it proves that God is at work at all times and in all places. Hezekiah is evidence that no matter what, God can and will break through to the hearts that are open to God. Hezekiah is proof that “guilt by association” is nothing more than a logical fallacy. Just because one is born to a father or mother who is wicked, unjust and swayed by evil, does not mean that one will automatically go down that road.

King Hezekiah was the son of King Ahaz who, as was discussed in the last devotion, was a wicked king who followed the ways of evil, rather than following God. Ahaz was also proof that just because one has good parents does not mean that one will end up being good or righteous. Let’s call the stories of Ahaz and Hezekiah to be ancient myth-busters.

I am not sure how Hezekiah came to be in relationship with God, having a parent like his dad. Let’s not forget that his dad made his “first-born” son “pass through the fire.” As was mentioned in the last devotion, there is debate as to what that means. The most common interpretation, and the one that the New Living Translation goes with, is that his sacrificed his first-born son to the Canaanite god Molech by burning him. That would mean that Hezekiah would have been the second-born son and next in line for the throne.

With that said, it could also mean that he put his first-born son through a pagan initiation rite involving fire, dedicating him to the god Molech. If that was the case, Hezekiah would have been that son. Either way, Hezekiah clearly grew up detesting the ways of his father and found his faith in YHWH, the God of his ancestor David.

What that meant is that Hezekiah had all of the shrines and idols throughout Judah destroyed. He brought the people of Israel back to the one, true God by strictly enforcing that the worship only the LORD and that they do so only in the LORD’s Temple. He also thought ahead and began to work for the safety of Jerusalem. When Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and exiled many of its leaders, King Hezekiah had already begun fortifying Jerusalem, ensuring that the city would be harder to take.

That is not to say that the king was perfect, after all, he was a human being. Isaiah recorded that the king was visited by envoy from the Babylonian Empire. He was so flattered by the visit that he let it go to the place of vanity and began to show off all of his wealth and power to the visitors. This, of course, got fully reported back to the King of Babylon. That empire would be setting its sights on Jerusalem and would eventually conquer her.

The challenge for us is this: even when we are following God, we are still not immune from sin and vanity is the sin, along with pride, that tends to get us when we least expect it. Let us not worry about what people think of us. Let us not boast so that people can think we are all that and a bag of chips; rather, let us be humble and remember that the only One we need to please is God. The challenge is to LOVE GOD and to keep our vanity at bay so that we can serve God and others in LOVE and in TRUTH. Humanly speaking, this may be impossible, but with God, all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26).

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves; vanity, to what we would have others think of us.” – Jane Austen

PRAYER
Lord, steer me away from vanity and shelter me in humility. Amen.

God’s People, part 80: Ahaz

Read 2 Kings 16; 2 Chronicles 28

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Uzziah was the father of Jotham. Jotham was the father of Ahaz. Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah.” (Matthew 1:9 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

KingAhazPart 80: Ahaz. Oh boy. We’ve all heard that phrase, “The apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.” Well, this was certainly NOT the case for Ahaz who wasn’t even a quarter of the king his father Jotham was. With that said, Ahaz didn’t grow up in a vacuum and the things that his father let slide during his reign, ended up manifesting in his son, Ahaz, who “did not do what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord his God, as his ancestor David had done” (2 Kings 16:2 NLT).

If you recall, King Jotham was mostly a good king; however, he carried on some of his father, Uzziah’s, policies. The policy that ended up affecting Judah the most was the one that allowed the foreign shrines to remain and the idol worshipping to continue. More than likely, this was done in order to be welcoming of foreigners traveling through the land and the more welcoming a nation is the more money it generates through tourism and other such things. Think about all the money being offered to the gods at the pagan shrines, and then you might begin to see, from the king’s perspective, the benefit to leaving them there.

With that said, the question should always be, “do the benefits outweigh the risks?” Would Jotham have followed those policies if he knew what would become of his son…or his grandson? 2 Kings 16:3 tells us that Ahaz “had his son pass through the fire.” Though there is some discrepency as to what that means, the probable meaning, as you can imagine, is that he sacrificed his son to the gods by burning him alive. Nice, right? I am pretty sure Ahaz didn’t make “father of the year” that year.

What’s more, when people attacked him, and large portions of his people were exiled to Damascus in Assyria (2 Chronicles , he allied himself and made himself a “vassal”, or subordinate) to the King of Assyria. He even visited Damascus (in what is modern-day Syria) and admired the altar to the gods they had set up there. So, he instructed his high priest to design a duplicate altar for God’s Temple and to remove the bronze one for the king’s own personal use. He also had a canopy that was used for the Sabbath removed from the Temple, among other things. What’s more, the Chronicler recorded that Ahaz ended up closing the temple so no one could worship there, and set up shrines to Baal all over Jerusalem. Yikes.

In the end, there was no direct consequence to Ahaz for his actions; however, he left Judah forever weakened, vulerable, and a subordinate to an enemy state that would one day come in and threaten the safety and sovereignty of Judah, in which Jerusalem would eventually be beseiged by the Assyrians. Similarly, the Northern Kingdom of Israel (whom the Ahaz followed the ways of), would be attacked and held captive by the Assyrians.

The challenge for us is to realize that just because God is our God, and just because we are God’s people, does not mean we are immune to sin and evil. What’s more, we asbolutely must recognize the sovereignty of God and trust that God’s way is better than our own ways.

Our actions have a greater impact than we realize. It is not just us who experience the consequences of our sin. In fact, sometimes we are not the ones at all who experience those consequences, but the ones we love and the ones who follow us. Let us turn to our God, who is graceful and sovereign, and fully rely on the Holy Spirit, through our Lord Jesus Christ, to lead us from where we are to where God is calling us to be.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
If our sins do not catch up with us, they will fall like bricks on the ones we love and those who follow after us.

PRAYER
Lord, thank you for your grace and your forgiveness of my sins. Lead me to where it is you are calling me. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Pieces of You

devotions-Bible-Coffee
Photo by Kim Stiver from Pexels. Click photo to see her work.

Writing the Life-Giving Water devotionals is not only an important ministry, but is a deeply rewarding spiritual discipline for me as well. With that said, observing Sabbath (aka rest) is an important spiritual discipline as well. So here is A LOOK BACK to a devotion I wrote in the past. Read it, reflect on it, be challenged by it. Who knows how God will speak to you through it and how it will bear relevance in your life today? May the Holy Spirit guide you as you read the suggested Scripture and subsequent devotion.

Episode 10 | The Road Forward to Eden

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-f3i8u-8f1691In this special episode of Life-Giving Water Messages, entitled “The Road Forward to Eden”, Rev. Todd Lattig discusses a personal struggle with the hope of GIVING HOPE to all who find themselves struggling. Through our weaknesses, Christ is strong.

EPISODE REFERENCES

Click here to see the Rev. Todd Lattig’s YouTube video testimonial heard in this episode.

• See Charles’ Courtyard, named after Charles Wesley here.

A LOOK BACK: Ekklesia

devotions-Bible-Coffee
Photo by Kim Stiver from Pexels

Writing the Life-Giving Water devotionals is not only an important ministry, but is a deeply rewarding spiritual discipline for me as well. With that said, observing Sabbath (aka rest) is an important spiritual discipline as well. So here is A LOOK BACK to a devotion I wrote in the past. Read it, reflect on it, be challenged by it. Who knows how God will speak to you through it and how it will bear relevance in your life today? May the Holy Spirit guide you as you read the suggested Scripture and subsequent devotion.

God’s People, part 79: Jotham

Read 2 Kings 15:32-38; 2 Chronicles 27

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Uzziah was the father of Jotham. Jotham was the father of Ahaz. Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah.” (Matthew 1:9 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Uzziah_-_Jotham_-_AhazPart 79: Jotham. Different people see things differently and history is always in the point of view of the historian. This is true in the Bible, as much as it is in any historical account. No matter how objective people try to be, they cannot completely shake their biases and/or agendas. This is human nature. We are subjects that try to be objective; however, subjectivity and objectivity are not the same and we can never fully know anything objectively due to our subjectivity.

This is seen in the accounts of King Jotham, son of King Uzziah. The first eleven years of his rule, he was a co-regent ruling along side of his father. Of course, it is inaccurate to say “along side” because his father was living in isolation due to having contracted leprosy. Thus, essentially, Jotham was ruling in his father’s place due to his illness.

The Chronicler records that Jotham did what was pleasing in God’s sight. It is also recorded in Chronicles that he did everything that his father had done as King, with the exception of making the same mistakes. Thus, Jotham learned from his father’s arrogance and did not repeat it. He did not think himself holy enough to enter the inner sanctuary of the Temple and burn incense to the Lord, disregarding the authority and role of the High Priest, as his father had foolishly done.

With that said, 2 Kings presents a more cynical account of his reign. While he may not have followed in his father’s footsteps in terms of his arrogance, it seems that he followed his father in some of his policies. For instance the author of 2 Kings writes, “Jotham did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight. He did everything his father, Uzziah, had done. But he did not destroy the pagan shrines, and the people still offered sacrifices and burned incense there. He rebuilt the upper gate of the Temple of the LORD.” (2 Kings 15:34-35)

Thus, even while he was building gates to the Temple of the LORD, he was permitting idolatry to persist in the land. The consequences to that were not immediate; however, over time Judah fell further and further away from their devotion to God. What Jotham, and those before him, did not realize was that future generations would begin to reject the prophets of God and would eventually face devastating defeat and exile at the hands of their enemies.

This was not God’s doing, it was their own. This is a powerful lesson for us as well. We are always being invited to destroy and abolish the idols that take precedent in our lives. We are being called to clean house within us and we are being called to turn our hearts back to God. We are being invited back toward faithfulness to the one true God, in whom there is peace, love, joy, hope, wholeness, and eternal life. Failure to do so, failure to put our full trust in Jesus Christ, is to choose our own way over God’s way. Sadly, our way leads to sin, to exile, and to death. Let us choose Christ and turn back to God and to the everlasting life God is offering us.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Jesus Christ gives us the power to be defiant to sin and death.

PRAYER
Lord, forgive me for my unfaithfulness. Keep me on the narrow pathway, and lead me in through the gateway to your kingdom. Amen.

A biweekly devotional